Home Family Baseball Life on a Shoestring and a Prayer

Baseball Life on a Shoestring and a Prayer

Baseball Life on a Shoestring and a Prayer

My husband and I still distinctly remember the day he was drafted. We had graduated from Washington State University about a month before, and he managed to take the day off from his new job as the picks were being made. I, on the other hand, was at work in a court room when he was picked in the 25th round of the 2012 draft. When my phone buzzed with the news, I had to swallow my squeals and sit on my shaking hands through the rest of the hearings that day. Kyle distinctly remembers the ‘phone call’ and seeing his name on our little lap top screen when he was selected. I remember the celebratory dinner out, and feeling incredibly proud of him, but I also vividly remember my silent heart ache that I wasn’t by his side for that call. I missed one of the most exciting moments of his life while I was working.

By the following morning, I firmly had made up my mind that I was going to travel with him and support his baseball journey. I was planning to quit my job and live on the road as a free spirited woman of baseball! Then the shocker: His very first pay check as a professional baseball player. I thought they had accidently left off a zero on the end of his check, no joke. We were unprepared for minor league baseball pay, and as reality sank in, my plans to travel deflated. In a last ditch attempt, I casually mentioned his pay to close friends. They advised me that his signing bonus was what funded a traveling lifestyle. The grand total of his signing bonus was less than a third of what I paid for my used car. If traveling together for baseball was going to work, we were destined to do it differently.

I stayed home for the remainder of his rookie season. I continued to work, full time for one agency and part time for another, saving every scrap I could. Kyle stayed with a host family, people we are blessed to still call friends, who provided him with a car, meals and housing. Without knowing it at the time, they played a huge role in our ability to save more funds for the following season. Kyle trained and took a part time job through the off season. By the time Spring Training rolled around, we were ready to tackle the traveling lifestyle with our savings from the past six months. I put in my two weeks’ notice at my full time position and sold all of my professional outfits at a consignment store for about six hundred bucks. (Insert a tearful melt down here). I then listed our garage hoardings and furniture on Craigslist, and with the help of dear friends, packed the remainder of our three bedroom-two bath apartment into a storage unit. Professional baseball is so glamorous, right?

Facing reality is how we are able to pull off traveling. Glitz and sparkle aren’t really in our cards for the time being. However, our deck is stacked with praying, budgeting and living in moderation. Traveling during the baseball season for us means that we have to carefully analyze our finances and live with-in our means at all times. This is much easier said than done, but a few things we have embraced in this process that I would like to share:

–  First and foremost, we rededicate our lives to Christ. It is through Him and our faith that we’ve found a sense of calm in managing baseball life, along with all of the other areas of our lives and marriage. In times of both blessing and challenge, I turn to scripture and prayer, and it has not failed me yet. In fact, when we face a challenge it seems that a viable solution presents itself more quickly than we could have ever planned on our own. That’s a God thing, His hand guides our journey.

–  We sat down, went through our incomes and our expenses and made a bon-a-fide budget. Our primary goal as a married couple is to be debt free, so our budget accommodates payments on our student loans and other debts. We both agreed not to make financial choices that would increase our debt. Budgeting allowed us to look where we could make cuts in our expenses, and determine what we really need for income to survive while traveling. PS: The income we would need to travel was less than I had thought it would be.

–  With a budget in hand we knew exactly what we needed for income on the road. We embraced the fact that we would need two incomes to meet our financial needs and goals. In the off season, I work from home and usually take on an additional full time job to create a ‘savings cushion,’ for pre-season training and Spring Training. My husband works a part time job during the off season in addition to doing private lessons and training. In season, I continue working from home and babysit. I frequently receive questions about my work-from-home position, and my best advice is that you should talk to your supervisor if you know you can do your job from home. Asking never hurts! I use Care.com when we travel to find short and long term babysitting jobs for extra cash. I’ve also made extra money teaching tennis and swim lessons, pet sitting, or tutoring. I know it may seem daunting to leave the workforce for babysitting. Trust me, I know. I have a fancy college degree that I still pay for each month. I compromise by taking opportunities to stay current in my field with employment in the off-season.

–  We decided to own less stuff. We donated or sold anything we owned that didn’t serve a clear and reasonable purpose during the last year. Use it or lose it. We’ve been saving money on oversized storage units and extra checked bag fees ever since. We’ve also been saving time and energy with packing and moving items we don’t actually use.

–  When we travel, I always bring my favorite outfits and essential pieces, but I’m sure to keep my belongings to a minimum. If I buy something new, I donate or sell one item in my closet. When I sell clothes, I take them to second hand stores that pay me on the spot. If I think I’m being low balled, I’ll list it on eBay with a “buy it now,” tag to see if there are any bites. Most of the time I donate items and take the tax break. Along those same lines, I bargain and thrift shop like crazy. Hautelook.com and Groop Dealz are among my favorite websites for new discounted clothing. My favorite second hand shop in our home town, Beau Monde Exchange, frequently stocks gently used Lululemon, Seven for all Mankind and Hudsons! Say you need casual sweatshirts for jogs, lounging around or bike rides? Salvation Army has got your back. Your husband gained twenty pounds this off-season? Plato’s Closet, Buffalo Exchange or other consignment type stores typically have very nice men’s shorts and plain tees. Plus, if your man spills as much as my husband does when he eats out on the road, I promise that you will sleep easier at night knowing that stains on second hand clothing are not the end of the world. I pick up kitchen wares at thrift stores and things that just need to be new, like bedding, at Ross or TJ Maxx. When you buy from thrift stores you can write the items off on your taxes for what you bought them for, as long as they’re still in great condition, when you re-donate them on the way out of town!

–  When I travel, I always use Orbitz, Hotwire or check the Hotel Tonight app. I will call hotels before booking a room and haggle with the front desk to see if they’ll give me an even better rate than the one listed on Orbitz. (Orbitz takes a portion of what you pay for your room if you book with them, so it’s worth a shot!) Also check the team rates of the hotels when your man travels, they beat Orbitz deals every now and then. And never forget to Google “Orbitz promo codes” to get an extra discount. I usually book my flights with Orbitz, or with frequent flier miles. I have frequent flier accounts at every airline I fly. If it’s free to register, why not? If we want to explore the town and eat out while we travel, we always check Groupon and LivingSocial for deals and ideas. The first time we used Groupon was during his first Spring Training in Arizona, and we had a blast capturing the flag and painting the snot out of some tactically advanced strangers in a paintball park. We’ve found deals on hot yoga, gym memberships, paddle boarding, boot camp classes, sushi dinners, historical tours, and museum admissions all over the country.

As tough as it is, I have learned to bite my tongue when relatives talk about the things my husband will be buying them with “all of his money,” or when people jokingly ask me if I’m able to “stay busy,” during baseball season. There is a financial stereotype that baseball families have to battle against every day, and I know that challenge. I used to feel ashamed about our minimalist lifestyle, but as time goes on I’ve come to realize what a blessing it is to travel together, and how personally rewarding it is to be practical spenders. As cliché as it may seem, in thirty years no one will remember our used eco-friendly cars, or that the dishes in our rental homes are from the Salvation Army, or that my favorite pair of white designer jeans were bought second hand on E-Bay.  Even more importantly, what I will remember is that I didn’t miss a single home game, and that I spent every moment of this adventure with the man I love most in this world. I wouldn’t trade our lifestyle for anything.


Susan Johnson My name is Susan Johnson, but most folks know me as Sue. I grew up in a small farming community in Eastern Washington, and I graduated from Washington State University in 2012. I spend half of the year traveling around the country with my husband while he plays minor league baseball, and the other half in our off-season home in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I currently aspire to teach English as a second language in Guatemala, buy a house somewhere to call 'mine' and master the art of making gluten-free cupcakes. In the meantime, I enjoy every moment of our blissful and blessed baseball journey.