Optioned to the minors by the Angels last week, a few days before his 28th birthday, Ty Buttrey decided that he was done with baseball. He’d accomplished his goal to “prove to every motherf***** who didn’t believe in me and doubted my ability to become an MLB player, that I could do it.”
And so, he announced his retirement, including that quote, in boldface, in an Instagram post on Saturday.
It’s not an easy thing to do, walking away from something that’s been your dream for as long as you can remember, while you’re still very much able to do it, because it’s no longer your dream. Buttrey is one of the top 0.00001% of people on the planet at playing baseball, but he doesn’t want to do it, even for a minimum of more than half a million dollars per season while on a major league roster — and as one of the last cuts from camp, you can be sure that he’d be back in the majors at some point this year.
Buttrey could’ve kept grinding in the minor leagues, gotten back to the bigs, and made some more nice coin, but he decided his own mental health, and ending the feeling that he was living a lie, were more important.
It’s a more common thing than people realize with athletes, how many of them, by the time they’ve reached an elite level, have fallen out of love with the games they play, if they ever loved them at all to begin with. Sure, if you walk into a major league clubhouse, there will be plenty of players watching and enjoying baseball on TV before their own game, but there also will be plenty for whom baseball is a paycheck — and they may enjoy aspects of playing it, but it’s a job above all else.
Quite often, a kid shows skill at something, and the sport becomes a chore — hours of practice, time missing friends and family, a harder experience getting schoolwork done — but one that has to be done because the displayed skill opens a pathway to college, or to an opportunity for professional success. That’s before the stress of the spotlight and the expectation to be grateful for an opportunity that so many people dream of but do not have the skill to accomplish.
“My whole life I’ve played the game for everyone else,” Buttrey wrote.
Now he gets to live for himself. Good for him.