General : : General
Bob Brower of the Scott Boras Corporation
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Bob Brower, a former big-league outfielder that spent three seasons with the Texas Rangers and one with the New York Yankees in the late-1980s, is one of several former big league players currently serving as representatives for the Scott Boras Corporation. No agent receives as much criticism as Scott Boras does, for some of his tactics in which he makes sure he gets the most money he can for the players that he represents. Brower talked to me about some of these issues, how he became involved with the Scott Boras Corporation and in what ways they help the players they represent.
Patrick Ebert (PE): How did you get involved with becoming an agent after your playing career?
Bob Brower (BB): Scott (Boras) represented me when I played. We have stayed close ever since. The first year out (of professional baseball) I was an intern with the Duke athletic department. While I was there, Scott bounced the idea of me working with him at me, and it just worked out well. I think I was his third employee, so I go back to the early days of the company.
PE: How many employees does the Scott Boras Corporation employ now?
BB: We have a very strong infrastructure based on a team concept. Including support personal and research staff I would estimate close to sixty employees, and that's not an absolute number.
PE: What are your responsibilities as an agent?
BB: I wear many hats. I will oversee all of the issues of anybody that I'm personally responsible for bringing into the company throughout their whole career. I have lived what they are going through, so I can provide insight and information to them as they go through their walk in professional baseball. I would say one responsibility would be to be honest and truthful with the information I provide the client. Of course contract negotiations are a very important function of an agent, and we have the best negotiator in the business with Scott. However, I would say that the business aspect and contracts are only 15% of what we do. Providing information and support to the guys is a daily function. I would say besides handling a client's money in house (which is a red flag) we are a full service company. From equipment issues and contracts, to endorsements, to legal support, our team is equipped to help our guys in every area. We also have the number one sports psychologists in the baseball business; Harvey Dorfman (author of "The Mental Game of Baseball") and Don Carmen (former Major League pitcher who is one of the only player turned psychologist in the business). We also have a Boras Sports Training Institute (BSTI) which is run by Steve Odgers. Steve has over 13 years of working with Major League Baseball players. So you see we have the all the pieces in order for a supportive role to our players. There is no other agency that provides this type of high end resources in our business. Our focus and responsibilities are the growth of our clients and their success. The proof is in our commitment to our clients, and in return our clients' successes are extremely high.
PE: What may be some specific issues young players come to you needing help with in their young careers?
BB: For the young high school players the issue of being away from home for the first time is always on the top of the list. The issue of how to deal with failure and take responsibility for all of your actions weighs heavy too.
There are levels of expectations for guys that signed big contracts that can weigh on a player's mind too. Trying too hard to be perfect and live up to the bonus baby label is always a hurdle to overcome. The key to playing in the big leagues has everything to do with one's mental approach, preparation, and focus. Hence, helping the guys understand how to figure what works for them and to be patient with results is very important. Issues of dealing with teammates, coaches, injury, travel, (etc.) are all important. I also encourage good decisions with ones social life away from the field. So as you can see it's a full-time job guiding a young player through his first few years of being a minor league player.
PE: Is there any one thing you can point to from you own playing career that you can use to help advise these young men?
BB: I played every level in my career, and I was actually a walk-on (as a non-drafted free agent from Duke University). I started in rookie ball, and moved up to A ball, then AA, then AAA, and ultimately made it to the big leagues. I dealt with being traded in the big leagues, dealing with bad coaches, with being injured, being released and eventually I had to deal with retirement. I played in the Dominican Republic for two years and in Mexico for one year. The players that I advise aren't going to go through anything that I haven't already faced. In my experience, when the players ask for my advice I can tell them based on my own career, it's not something I'm just making up. I'm in a better position to give them better direction. I really believe unless you have worn the uniform you can't truly give the best information to the guys.
PE: Do you advise specific players, or do all of the agents for the Scott Boras Corporation have equal responsibilities with all of your clients?
BB: We're just like a baseball team. I am responsible for all issues with the guys I have brought into our company. By the time he has made it to the big leagues he has been able to establish a relationship with some of the other guys in our company. I can't be in more than one place at a time, so we have guys (all baseball guys, we have about a dozen ex-Major Leaguers on staff) in all different parts of the country where a guy might be playing. As the client moves through his career in the big leagues he will start a relationship with Scott (Boras), as he needs more information at the big-league level, dealing with the press, managers, contracts (etc.). I'm the main guy that stays in touch with him (the player), and I stay in touch with him every day throughout his career, but he has probably met a number of other guys in our company and they are all former big-league players. There is always support nearby. We try to give them as many resources as possible so they don't stumble, because our future depends on their success as well. We are always looking for the right guy to represent. The balance of talent and character is so important. How many times do you see a young player sign a big contract and then is in trouble with drugs or alcohol. You need a team in place to oversee these young men. Baseball is a short window of opportunity, but a long race to the end. We focus on the end of the race, trying to help the guys have a long major league career with excellent performance. That way we can utilize our strength or Scott's negotiation skills and our research staffs work to insure security for our clients for life after baseball.
PE: Speaking of the right type of player, it seems as though many of your clients end up attending college out of high school, no matter how talented they are. Given how tough it is for players to even make it to the big leagues, again, no matter how talented they are, is that something you stress, and does that fall under being the right type of player?
BB: Although we have to get out and do our work in finding players I think families and players should seek out representation and hire them instead of being befriended and recruited. I would like to think that our clients hire us based on knowing they will be provided with the best information, the best support and eventually a very good contract. Remember our responsibility is to provide information and insight to the players and their families. We are not in the business of making decisions, just supporting them. I just want a decision to be based on information and that it is objective. Young players are emotional and impatient. I just want to be honest and truthful with the good, bad, and ugly of everything they are dealing with. They make the decision. It just happens that a lot of our guys are fairly intelligent and will think things through.
It is a fact that college players make up the majority of big leaguers. That doesn't mean we don't have young players that sign out of high school. Michael Rozier signed last year with Boston and he was a high school pitcher. Remember the success rate of playing in the big leagues for all the players drafted is less than 2%. That means there is graveyard filled with young players dreams that are in the world today without a college education. I just feel a responsibility to talk about that graveyard with all players. There is life after baseball, but no one wants to talk about it.
PE: Since you mentioned that the players hire you, how is that initial contact made? Do you seek out the players or do they seek you out?
BB: We have players that call our office and express interest. I think we have the luxury of saying yes or no. We always say that we don't need clients, we just need the right clients, which ties into what I was talking about earlier. Our infrastructure is strong; the company from top to bottom is strong because it is built on the right principles of dealing with great people. We represent players not only with great talent, but guys that have the makeup and the character to succeed at the highest level. In today's world everyone and their mother is seeing the draft as a money cow. Remember all you need is a client to be an agent. The checks and balances are very loose on people in our business. So yes we have to get out and work to stay ahead of the competition. There are lots of venues to see the best talent in the country, but we also have a good team of great guys out beating the bushes too.
PE: So, do you as an agent have to double as a scout by not only identifying talent but by also judging it as well?
BB: Well of course. At least we (the Scott Boras Corporation) do, we have the personnel to do it. I don't think our peers in this business do it as much, I think they rely more on what the teams, scouting directors and even publications like Baseball America are telling them. We have the ability and resources to go out and see the talent, the ability to identify that talent and to predict what that talent will produce years down the road. You need guys that have played the game to be able to do those kinds of things. And that comes down to a question about whose interests do agents really have in mind? Do they take care of their clients' interests, their own interests or the teams' interests? If you're asking teams for information on players, and then you have to negotiate with those same teams when one of the players that you represent is drafted, there has to be a trade-off somewhere there and a conflict of interest. You cannot properly represent your client if you are relying on information from the same guy sitting across the table negotiating with you. You see the same thing happening with pre-determined slot values. Other agencies buy into this. Why? Because they don't bite the hand that feeds them. We do our own homework and scouting to keep the interests of our clients our first priority. And once they are signed, we don't just take our commission and run. We're in it for the long haul, we see our clients through their entire baseball careers.
PE: Do agencies have to have a law background to be able to represent players?
BB: According to the NCAA guidelines and rules an amateur player cannot engage in any relationship written or verbal with any form of representation. However, it does permit a family to retain legal council to help with the draft contract. So I would say yes, an agency needs to be a law firm to represent a player legally in the draft world. In the professional world I couldn't come close to even thinking of a player being represented properly if there was no legal council directly involved. My gosh the owners and teams have armies of lawyers dealing with contracts, etc.
PE: How important are Perfect Game showcase events and tournaments to you since you're able to view so many talented players in one place?
BB: Anytime you can get a group of talented players from across the country to one area, sure, it's a great opportunity for us. Economically it makes sense since they're (the players) all there at Perfect Game, and you get to see them play with and against the best players in the nation. It's a great thing for the kids, they get the necessary exposure, and they get to gauge their own talents by watching the other people they're playing with. They will be able to find out really fast what areas they need to improve.
PE: What are the most common misconceptions you have to dispel with so many people eager to criticize the work that the Scott Boras Corporation does?
BB: You have to understand that the negative press that comes our way is based on producing good contracts for our clients. It's hard for the normal person off the street to understand why a player makes so much money, but they need to understand our responsibility is to our client's interests, not ours, or the team's. The draft has provided a lot misconceptions, yes, we are responsible for bringing draft bonuses up to where they are, and anytime you cost the teams to pay more money they are not going to invite you over to dinner. The two best things we can do for a young high school player in the draft are to let the player go to college or to work hard for a very good contract. Remember the odds are against high schoolers and we are trying to put a nest egg away for life after baseball if he turns out to be one of the 98% of the players that don't make it. In perspective the two things we can do to benefit the player are the two things scouts hate most. They are paid to sign players, and save their owners money in doing it. I still can't believe families buy into what other agents or scouts tell them: That we are bad for them and will hurt them. Families just need to look at the facts and check with the union, and they will see the difference of truly representing your client.
PE: Do you feel you have less turnover between player and agent than other agencies?
BB: It's hard to say, since I don't have the numbers to back me up, but I would say yes, most definitely. Why would people want to leave us? They hire us for a reason. We are in industry leaders in our business and are all ex-players talking baseball everyday. Baseball is what we do. We set the bar for the draft, arbitration and free agency. Contractually no one comes close to us. Most of our players are with us because they want to be the best and they want to be represented off of the field the same way. Plus, they want to be with baseball people. When they talk to us they talk to people that wore the uniform. That's important to a lot of people, as it was for me, and that's why I have stayed with Scott for so long, during my career and ever since. Scott played the game, he understood it and he understood the position I was in on and off the field as a professional baseball player. Most guys hire us because we are the best in our business. We don't sell friendship, your face on a cereal box or shallow promises. We just want to provide the truth with information and hard work, through the eyes of former players.
PE: Thanks for your time.
BB: Thank you, take care.
Patrick Ebert is affiliated with both Perfect Game USA and Brewerfan.net, and can be contacted via email at email@example.com.
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