Most MLB players earn a significant amount of money. Yet even those millions of dollars are no guarantee of a smooth retirement. History is rife with examples of former MLB players who fall on hard times, whether by accident or their own doing. Just look at the case of Lenny Dykstra who went bankrupt in one of the ugliest possible ways.
Other former baseball players take a more cautious approach, hiring investment advisors to help them plan retirement. Retired Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, on the other hand, went with a more unique solution. Let’s look at Ortiz’s retirement, and how he chose to crowdsource ideas about what to do after retiring.
David Ortiz’s approach to retirement
Ortiz retired from baseball at the end of the 2016 season, just shy of his 41st birthday. He had announced his intentions way back before the start of the season. Yet many fans were surprised by the decision, especially as 2016 was one of Ortiz’s most productive seasons in years. He ended up batting .315, with 127 RBIs and 38 home runs—the most home runs ever hit by a player in their final year.
In an interview conducted the next May, Ortiz opened up about retirement. He admitted he had spent time vacationing back home in the Dominican Republic. Otherwise, however, he said he was busier post-retirement than he had been as a player. He also claimed to be less bored with his retirement activities than he’d been with the daily grind of the MLB season.
Crowdsourcing retirement ideas
Even before he officially hung up his cleats, Ortiz was well aware of the potential challenges facing players in retirement. Perhaps the biggest question was what he would do with all of his newfound free time. Most players would pose a question like that to their close friends and family. Ortiz, however, chose to go public with his existential question.
On social media, Ortiz asked fans to suggest ideas about what he should do in retirement using the #retirementrookie hashtag. Soon the submissions were flooding in. One tongue-in-cheek fan pointed out that Ortiz would make a great baseball player—in particular the designated hitter position. Other suggestions included taking up a mail route, playing beer yoga, and taking up adventure sports like zip lining and bungee jumping.
While the gesture of soliciting social media advice appealed to fans, Ortiz also consulted with plenty of professionals. To begin with, Ortiz worked closely with John Hancock Financial to plan his retirement. In fact, the whole “The Retirement Rookie” angle was actually part of a humorous ad campaign Ortiz conducted with John Hancock.
Ortiz also solicited some investment advice from billionaire Warren Buffett, who told him that he should only invest money in things that he knew about. Ortiz later recalled the conversation — as well as his faith in Buffett’s advice — saying:
“When you invest money in things that you don’t know, you face a situation where you could end up losing your money. And let me tell you, the guy knows about it.”
For the most part, Ortiz seems to have taken that advice to heart. Yet that doesn’t mean he hasn’t taken a few missteps along the way. In 2009, Ortiz opened a restaurant called Big Papi’s Grille, in Framingham, Massachusetts. The business didn’t last more than a couple of years, and from the reviews still on Yelp, it was apparently a strike-out from the beginning.
Unlike other former baseball players, however, Ortiz seems more than capable from learning from his past errors. He has always prioritized saving money and making smart investments. As Ortiz candidly put it, “It doesn’t matter how much money you make, blowing it is just the easiest thing to do.”