Ghostwriter for The Life of the Baseball Wife
We are a year into this “retirement thing” as I like to call it. More accurately we are almost 18 months in.
You know what no one tells you about retirement - it’s hard.
It’s really, really hard!
I had asked Ray to explore his idea of what not playing looked like about 18 months before he knew he would retire. He had always said he wanted to play until he was 40 years old. As we entered the off season prior to his 40th birthday year I knew we all needed to prepare. I had friends who’s husbands had been through this. I would make sure we were learning from their experiences.
I told Ray, “You can play another year,” (he had asked because the offer came from overseas and our family would be separated for 10 months) “however I need you to think about and imagine and ‘try on’ what not being a baseball player feels and looks like”. He agreed and I checked in with him about once a month to make sure he was facing the future with a plan.
Ray decided he wanted to stay in baseball and had a very specific idea of what that looked like. The path he wanted to follow wasn’t easy. Once he told me where he wanted to start I began asking other wives if they knew how one enters into this role. While I was working on my end Ray received a call from an agency that focused on individuals in this field and told him they had received calls asking if Ray had an agent because there were a few organizations interested in using him in his dream job capacity.
Once Ray came home from overseas he signed with this new agency. They set up “interviews” for him and he did great. One offer came immediately. Then, as we awaited the actual contract, an opportunity came up that was too good to pass up. Ray would be in this new role for his favorite team growing up and would be walking into the top position full time. The financial compensation was generous (although a bit less than when he played) but offered security and insurance and a 401K and everything a more stable job offered. Ray’s new agency encouraged him to sign the deal and it was for a year and an option! Something we had never had during his playing years.
With this new job our family had to make a decision. Sheridan and I had never moved to the city where Ray played, We chose to visit once a month or every 6 weeks and stay in our home base. With his new position Ray would be home every night! No road trips, minimal travel. Again, too good to be true! So Sheridan and I packed up two bags each and flew out to the city where Ray would not be working.
Our decision was made that we would keep our home since we didn’t know if Ray would be picked up for his option year. We would get a short term lease on an apartment. Sheridan would get involved in activities in our new city and we would see if this place became “home”.
I had been saving money for most of Ray’s career. Some years we had to subsidize Ray’s playing with savings (having a home and all those costs and then an apartment where Ray played and all those costs add up and a minor league salary makes it nearly impossible to do both easily). I felt confident that I had saved enough for us to make this move in the way we both felt was best in our current situation.
Ray and I had a lot of issues learning to share our space together. Having him home every night was harder than it should have been. Suddenly he was a “real husband” and I needed to learn to back away from all the control and learn to let him in. One day Ray and I had an argument and he said, “I never asked you and Sheridan to move here with me!”. I couldn’t believe it! I mean this is what most families do. When a spouse gets a new job the entire family moves. However, in our family, we were so accustomed to living a part and sharing moments instead of mundane daily life, that we didn’t really know how to navigate these things.
Money is tight when you retire, too! Ray had an amazing opportunity and job but we knew there would be no potential “call up” where a pay check would be put away and pay a few months of our off season bills. Ray still spent money as if he was playing and Sheridan and I were sort of living as tourists in this new city. I kept an eye on our budget but in full disclosure, budgets had been a bit fluid for the past 19 years. Ray could always go to winterball if he didn’t get called up. Our hometown is much less expensive to live in than this new city where are living. Most importantly, we didn’t have ⅔ greater bills on ½ of his past salary.
As savings stated to dwindle I became stressed. Ray believed I was being dramatic. Sheridan didn’t understand why I was reigning in our more regular nights out, buying on a whim, being frivolous and telling her we needed to be more conservative. Money caused, and continues to cause a great stress in retirement. As we learn how to save and manage our assets, Ray and I have learned to turn to one another but it’s been a really hard process.
Identities are challenged in retirement. Ray is no longer a ball player. Although his new position keeps him in the game, he has a much different role than when he played. In some ways he is more relevant than he ever was as a “fringe” player. In other ways he’s not. There are times his years of experience and struggle and perserverance are ridiculed and downplayed in his new role in the game - and that’s hard for anyone to accept. My role as his wife is different now. I am not the sole “CEO” of our home. I need to share and invite and encourage and allow Ray to be a part of our daily living in a way that I don’t always feel comfortable or wanting to do.
Communication styles need to be relearned. This is so hard! We had been accustomed to sharing much of life on the phone, on facetime or in text message. Now that we sit at home and have to talk face to face we often need our space. There are no road trips to give us a few days to step back and refocus. We are in each other’s space and face all the time. We are learning how to partner in a way I would guess most newlyweds do in their first few years.
I wish I could have fully grasped how difficult retirement would have been! I know we have a lot of growing and learning to do.
One amazing thing that I am learning is that now, more than ever before, our family is truly a team. “Team Dover” doesn’t have another team that Ray travels with, lives with and shares most of his life with. We get that part of him now for the very first time in our lives. While it is a challenge, I know life can only get better as we turn towards one another and begin to live life together.
Thanks for reading!