What direction does an athlete head in upon retiring? What’s next once the cheers stop?
Figuring out the next chapter isn’t always easy. Professional athletes often devote much of their adult life to on-field athletic development – sometimes at the expense of developing proper off-field skills and healthy coping mechanisms that can help with retirement.
That’s why it’s important to remember the following: life does not cease just because the games do. The ability to contribute to society still exists, even if it’s no longer through sports.
Upon realizing that a major-league invitation to spring training wasn’t forthcoming, Rod Correia flipped on the life-after-baseball switch. It was 1998, and Correia was working in the mortgage industry for Shamrock Financial Corporation, located in Rumford.
As tough as it was to let go of a 10-year pro career that included three seasons with the California Angels, Correia was ready to move on. A self-described quick learner, this Rehoboth native rose through the ranks to become the president of Shamrock Financial in 2009.
If that’s not the definition of a post-career success story, then it’s pretty darn close.
Here in lies a prime chance to understand what kind of career Correia had and how he was able to make a smooth transition to a life away from baseball.
Brendan McGair: Retrace the steps of what happened following the ’97 season, which proved to be your last in pro ball.
Rod Correia: I had entered into a decision-making process of what I wanted to do. I drew the line that if I could get back into a major-league training camp, then I’d go. Certainly there are players who come out of minor-league camp and do well, but from experience knowing that’s more of the exception than the rule … I was 30 at the time, and with my resume [Correia hit .259 in 320 at-bats], I really needed to get into a big-league camp.
The opportunity didn’t really come up. I started to work for Shamrock in the offseason; I was on a minor-league salary and needed to make some money. I was able to excel quickly in this business, but a few weeks into spring training [in ’98], I got a call to be the starting shortstop for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. I had a decision to make and I decided not to do it.
The way I put it to a lot of people is that you put your heart and soul into something for so long, and at some point, if you’re putting a lot more into it than you’re getting out of it, then it’s time to move on to something else. I had reached that point. [Hooking on with Shamrock] was a way for me to transition without feeling a financial pain.
BM: Talk about August 14, 1993, the day you went 3-for-3 with two stolen bases against Randy Johnson, then with Seattle.
RC: That’s when he was in his prime and lighting it up. It was a time when I was seeing the ball very well. Stan Javier was a teammate of mine and he and I were both platooning at the time; I was leading off against left-handed pitching. Before each series, we would look at the opposing starting pitchers and start to get mentally prepared for that game. We go into Seattle and play the first game, then afterwards I remember Stan coming up to me and saying, “Hey, Randy’s pitching tomorrow. You scared?”
The video is probably funnier than the box score. I lead off with a double down the line. My second time up, I battle him a little bit and hit a groundball right through his legs, a hard line drive. His reaction is kind of a priceless swinging-his-face-at-me, “Who is this kid?”
Next time up, first pitch, I do the same thing. I hit it right between his legs and get a base hit up the middle. I ended up stealing another base off him. We have zero runs on the scoreboard and I’m 3-for-3 with two stolen bases. The fourth time up, I battled him. He threw me a 2-2 change-up, which he never throws unless you’re a No. 3 or 4 hitter. He needed to get me out, so the pitch was just outside and low. The umpire called it a ball correctly.
Randy was really upset. The next pitch he reached back and hit me with a fastball in the thigh. I got up and ran down to first; my eyes were so big.
BM: The sample size was small, but when California and Seattle playing in a one-game playoff to determine the American League West champ in 1995, you were on the bench with Johnson pitching.
RC: It was entirely different time in my career. I would have loved to play, but it was a different team. I hadn’t had a legitimate major-league at-bat in weeks, and if I were the manager, I wouldn’t have put me in the lineup for that game. It would have been great, but you’ve got to go with the guys who have brought you there. You don’t go with hunches with guys who haven’t played in three weeks. I had mothballs on me; I was rusty, so I wouldn’t have done well.
BM: Like a certain club based in Boston, you were on a team that went through one of the worst collapses in MLB history. The Angels owned a 10½-game lead over the Angels in mid-August before a pair of nine-game losing streaks resulted in a drop to second place. Fortunately, the Angels were able to rally, winning the last five scheduled games to force a winner-take-all showdown with Seattle, which captured the tiebreaking game, 9-1, behind Johnson.
RC: Seattle was hot the entire month; we saw the scoreboard. Ironically, I got sent down on Aug. 2 with the Angels enjoying a 13- or 14-game lead. I felt strongly against that because I felt I should have been playing shortstop every day.
Gary DiSarcina [California’s starting shortstop at the time] had gotten hurt and he was out the next 4-5 weeks minimum, so they had to make a decision. They decided to move Damion Easley from second base to shortstop. I’m not the coach, but I disagreed with the decision. Rick Burleson was our third-base coach, and when they had their internal meetings after the season, the general manager told me, “If it makes any difference, Burleson wanted to go with you at short.”
BM: Do you feel your demotion to the minors in Aug. of ’95 robbed you of a chance to show the Angels and any big league team for that matter that, yes, you had the goods to be a starting shortstop? [Note: Correia also logged time at second and third base.]
RC: If I had been the everyday shortstop for six weeks, done reasonably well offensively and defensively, and we win the pennant, it literally could have bought me three or four years in the big leagues. I talk about having portholes of opportunity. It’s not windows, it’s portholes because they’re so small.
BM: You patrolled the same shortstop turf the night Cal Ripken Jr. set the record for consecutive games played. In your office, there’s a scorecard from that memorable night hanging on your wall.
RC: It was an once-in-a-lifetime event. To kind of hit the lottery on being on the opposing team and to share the shortstop position – granted I was a defensive replacement and only for an inning – I got the best of all worlds.
When Cal did his lap [around Camden Yards], I was able to shake his hand because I wasn’t in the game yet; we were along the top step of the dugout. As someone who was part of the strike [of 1994], you knew that the game needed something to get re-energized. Cal grabbed the flag and he was the leader.
BM: Did you ever feel you were at all pressing in your career? [Note: Correia appeared in 84 major leagues games, 20 of those coming between 1994-95.]
RC: I remember Lenn Sakata, who was the Orioles’ starting shortstop prior to Cal Ripken. Lenn was a journeyman and was my first professional coach. He said that one of the most difficult things in sports is to be a utility-type replacement in the late innings because you’re expected to do the job. If you don’t do it, you’re a colossal failure. If you do, you just did your job.
In 1995, DiSarcina got hurt, Spike Owen played the next game and had three errors, then I played and made one error. We went to Kansas City and played fine, but the Angels decided to make a change.
What major-league managers look for in a utility guy is someone who’s going to come in and not make a mistake. They are going to throw it to the target and not make errors. One day in ’96, I was shagging fly balls during spring training with Willie McGee and he said to me, “I never seen anybody play as many positions as you as well as you.”
BM: Current Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon was the Angels’ bench coach in 1995.
RC: I knew Joe through the minor leagues. Joe gave me a stock tip in 1991, saying, “Hey, this America Online thing is pretty cool. You should buy the stock.” I wish I had done that.
Joe is always a little ahead of the game in a lot of ways. He has a very engaging way about him. When you talk to him, he makes you feel like you’re the most important person on the Earth at that time, which I think makes him a very good manager. When you’re with him, you’re his and he’s yours.
I have a lot of respect for him, so I think [the Angels’ collapse in ‘95] helped him this past year [when Tampa Bay overtook Boston for the wild card] because he knew the other side.
I remember one day in ’95 when he came up to me and a few of the young guys and said that we had to crank up the enthusiasm in the dugout. It was myself, Eduardo Perez, and Orlando Palmeiro, and I remember slapping everyone, basically doing what Joe told us to do. Midway through one game, Tony Phillips turned to us and said “What the (expletive) are you guys doing?”
BM: What are your memories of Chili Davis, a teammate of yours in the three years you spent with the Angels?
RC: Love Chili. I went over to McCoy [Stadium, where Davis served as the PawSox’ hitting coach] this year. Chili is one of the best people I ever came across in baseball. I remember my rookie year and he arranged a couple of off-days on a boat where we had jet skies.
Chili would treat a rookie with the same amount of respect as a veteran. There was no hierarchy with him. He will make a fabulous major-league hitting coach someday.
BM: Hall of Fame second baseman Rod Carew was your hitting coach with the Angels.
RC: I wish I had the opportunity to work with him earlier in my career because some of the swing planes and patterns that I had already developed, he was trying to make adjustments on. I was tough to change them at that point because I was trying to make and stay on the major-league club.
Selfishly, I wish he were a minor-league hitting coach because it would have been unbelievable to get some of the stuff that was in his head. I wish I met him three years earlier instead of my rookie year.
BM: You finished your playing career with the PawSox.
RC: I signed with the Red Sox in ’97 knowing that that could potentially be my last year if things didn’t progress the way I wanted them to. It was also the first time in my career that I could chose were I wanted to play. From 1988-96, I was under contract without a chance to say, “Where do I want to play?”
The last couple of spring training, there were a lot of roster moves and the coaches came to me and said there were two choices: either I was going to get let go or go to Double-A [Trenton] and slug it out down there until something opens up. There was an injury to someone in Boston, and Mike Benjamin was in Pawtucket at the time. I was hitting the hell out of the ball in Trenton and Peter Gammons put in one of his Boston Globe Sunday Notes column that the Red Sox should have brought me up instead of Benjamin.
What major-league managers look for in a utility guy is someone who’s going to come in and not make a mistake. They are going to throw it to the target and not make errors.
When I got to Pawtucket, I wasn’t trying to finish my career; I was trying to resurrect it. It was phenomenal to sleep in my own bed at night and know certain people, so I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
BM: Did you ever consider a career in coaching upon retiring?
RC: I didn’t make a lot of money in baseball. I had three seasons in which I earned less than the minimum, so there wasn’t any nest egg. When I changed careers, it had to be a career to raise a family and have a house. I had to attack it and have my focus on it just like I did when I was playing.
I didn’t even solicit offers to coach. As a shortstop, you’re a field general, and that’s what I am [with Shamrock]. I saw the minor-league coaches go through a five or six-year career just to get back to the majors and do the toiling of all the minor-league B.S. and I didn’t want to go through that.