Strike That

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In Derek Jeter’s last year with the Yankees, he made 12 million dollars.

That same year I didn’t. I teach college.

He hit 310 in his career with 260 homers and 1311 rbi’s. He played in 145 games his last season and stood at the plate 581 times. During some of those at bats, and certainly a few times on the field with his hands on his knees, he called out supportive statements from his shortstop position, like “Go get ‘em!” or “Come on!” He probably broke a sweat. It gets hot out there and he’s from Jersey. The stress must have bled onto his off-the-field schedule as well. He had team meetings, promotional events, media interviews, charity appearances, and, of course, training. I imagine it can be rough, throwing that ball a few hours every day, placing himself in harms way of a hammered lined drive—not to mention the dangers of collision with the third basemen or pitcher during those sudden infield flies. So I really can’t question his annual salary of 12 million dollars. Certainly the people attending in the Bronx were there because of him and would go home if he didn’t play one day (which is rare–he missed, in fact, only 17 games in 2014). When the fans arrived, they spent more money on beer, food, and shirts with Jeter on the back, which is another aspect of his job which must take its toll–all those pregame autographs he must sign, and all those people running around wearing Yankees jerseys with his name on the back–Impostors! Human plagiarists!

I don’t know Derek. We don’t hang with the same crowd. It might be my age–I was a sophomore in high school when he was born. It could be also I’m a Mets fan, so no wonder our paths have not crossed.

Also, I don’t make 12 million. In fact, here’s how it breaks down: Derek’s game time salary, that is, money divided into his in-season, game time appearances, totals $74.074 per game. That doesn’t include spring training, appearances, practices, and money he makes from other income such as commercials and endorsements. Compare that to my salary, including class time, prep work, meetings, grading, workshops, and conferences, across the course of a twenty-eight-year career, including cost of living increases–I mean the basic salary for myself as a college professor—I will make in total what Derek pulled down in twenty-five games, seven innings.

Surely I could field a ball. I might have called the coach, asked him to put me in. I used to throw fairly well from the mound. I could be like the pitcher made famous in Dennis Quaid’s The Rookie, Jim Morris, who at thirty-five returned to baseball as a relief pitcher. And, hell, I’d do it for half what Derek makes. One tenth. Wait. I’ll do it for what he would have made in the 17 games he didn’t play his last year, which is still twelve times my annual income.

Now, all this is fair, really. He generated income, increased revenue. No one is running over to the college bookstore to buy jerseys with “Kunzinger” on the back. If someone else were pitching the grammar rules instead of me, students would still show up. Nike doesn’t endorse faculty, though for relatively small money, I’d throw a “swoosh” at the bottom of my course outline and wear the Nike shirts to class everyday. I wear a baseball cap quite often–for the right price it could be theirs, or Budweiser’s, or Coke’s.

Think of the possibilities. A company could sponsor my clothes, sneakers, and hats. They could endorse my syllabus, my tests, and even my overheads. Yes, at the bottom of my overheads I could put a “Goodyear Blimp” emblem. I’d do it for relatively small money.

I already do.

It wasn’t always this way, to be sure. During the Babe’s days he signed a two year, $160,000 contract making him the highest paid player of all time while Cub slugger Hack Wilson led the National League in home runs and RBI’s and said he was “grateful” when he signed in 1931 for $35,000. That same year a college professor averaged about $3000 a year. Here’s the math: While my annual salary is about 30 times that of my counterpart back then, Derek’s take was 80 times the Babe’s.

Make no mistakes: I can teach. I’ve had excellent evaluations for my entire career, and my performance improves as I go, unlike an athlete’s. But I still bet I can pitch low enough to force out three opposing players faster than Jeter can develop students’ argumentative writing skills. But you have to love him. I mean, to watch him play is witnessing an artist stroking the canvas—sheer beauty. Truly.

Still, you should see me diagram a sentence. Breathless.

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