Most of us have the luxury of growing old in relative anonymity. If we slip in our job performance, very few can tell, let alone know about it. Baseball players are an enormous exception. Very few go out on top. Babe Ruth was a shadow of his greatness when he finished his career with the Boston Braves. Jim Rices’ production fell off the map at the end of his Hall of Fame career. We just witnessed the John Smoltz “train wreck” in Boston. Despite being awful for the Red Sox, millions of Braves fans will cheer wildly when he is inducted into the Hall. It has to be incredibly difficult to be on top, an “alpha” male, a star since you were a little kid and then suddenly, the very thing that has defined your entire life is gone. The great comedic genius, Steve Martin used to sing a bit about getting up in the morning to be a doctor or lawyer, or going to work at the drugstore to sell flair pens. He finished the ditty with these words- “The most amazing thing to me, is I get paid for doing this.” I hope that thought crosses the minds of these athletes while they’re in their prime. They are getting paid to play a little kids’ game. What any of us wouldn’t give to do the same, even if for only one day. Today I was taking the elevator at Knights’ Stadium up to the press box and the lady who runs it lamented about the impending end to the season. “I can’t believe it’s almost over” she sighed. That’s a thought that crosses my mind on a daily basis as the 2009, or any of my previous 8 seasons in the International League draws to a close. There is no doubt that many of the guys will take their final swing or throw their final pitch this September. It’s baseballs’ “Circle of Life”. Some have made good money. Others will try to capitalize on their fame in their hometowns, and others still, will get into coaching or other baseball related jobs. I was getting a soda in the press box dining area and a team photo of the 1996 Charlotte Knights caught my eye. In the center of the back row was a strapping young man named Russ Morman. Morman, now the PawSox hitting instructor had yet to win his first World Series ring at the time the picture was taken. (He won one as a player with the Marlins in 1997 and 2 more as a Red Sox coach). In some respects, 13 years ago isn’t a long time. In others, it’s a lifetime. Morman was a prodigious hitter in the minor leagues, with a .297 career batting average and 207 home runs, including 33 in 1997 in Charlotte. Today after the team took batting practice, Russ, goaded by Sean Danileson, toyed with the idea of stepping in the cage for a few swings. The man spent most of his adult life (17 years) as a professional ballplayer and today, RJ discouraged him “Aw man, you don’t want to get hurt.” Time can be rough. Time marches on, whether we want it to or not.