Now that I'm seven years in, I'm finally getting around to making one myself.
Maybe I'm still a beginner after all this time? That would explain a lot...
Anyway, here's my Developer Story.
Ever since I was 3 years old, this is the only thing that I've ever wanted someone to say to me. The Show is a phrase that baseball players use to lovingly refer to Major League Baseball, where the best baseball in the world gets played.
I played baseball my whole young life and was fortunate enough to get to play in college at the University of San Francisco. I also got to play professional baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals. Yes, this is a part of my developer story; stay with me, folks.
The picture above is when I was in AA. If you're not familiar with how professional baseball works, it's a lot like levels in a video game. You sign a contract, start at Level 1, and get paid $3,000 for your first year of work. If you get through all the levels, the final boss (Level 6) is playing for millions of dollars on TV.
If you were reading closely, you might have caught an interesting tidbit there: As a professional baseball player, I received $3,000 for my first year of work. Yes, year.
As a matter of fact, the average salary for 80% of professional baseball players is right around $5,000 per year. For those of you in the crowd aware of the "massive signing bonuses" that are supposed to cover the gap, a livable signing bonus only goes to about 2% of players.
That's the price to chase your childhood dream and, as players, we tend to (begrudgingly) accept it. Playing in The Big Leagues isn't the most important thing to us. It's the only thing. We know we're making a high-risk, high-reward investment of our time, effort, and health.
But, in the meantime, we need to eat. I'd just finished college so I had massive debt to cover there. I like living in a house, in the general sense. Food is also pretty cool. I had to figure out a way to pick up some extra coins.
As you'd imagine, playing pro baseball is a pretty demanding line of work. It doesn't exactly leave room for more employment.
Every day that you see a game on the schedule below is around 12 hours spent at the stadium. The gray boxes mean travelling to a different city. The pale, blue boxes are days off (that probably were used for travel).
During the offseason, you:
- train about 6 hours a day
- spend time with loved ones that you don't see during season
- do your best to get proper rest for the grueling season ahead
- generally give your brain a rest from the insanity of a baseball season
That's all to say: My personal requirements for finding a part-time job were pretty stiff and unique. Even if I wanted to try to "get a real job" during the offseason, I can only participate there for 4-5 months and then have to disappear for season again.
I had to find work that could travel with me and let me create the workload that I needed so freelance was a natural fit. I started browsing job boards.
I was seeing postings for web development and they interested me, despite having no idea how it worked. In college, I wanted to take mechanical engineering courses but couldn't because of time constraints. Maybe this is the opportunity to let my inner engineering-ish mind out to do some work?
I Googled something to the effect of "learn web development free" and eventually landed at freecodecamp.org.
I did a few of the HTML modules and was instantly hooked. Even while I was at the stadium doing baseball work, all I could think about was "This CSS thing is so dumb; why can't I nest stuff?"
After about two and a half months, I had done all of the modules through React and Express. I had all of the misplaced confidence in the world that I knew how to build full-stack web applications after a couple months of practicing.
I started putting in bids to web development contracts, focusing in on projects that catered to my niche: baseball. I had a pretty easy differentiator that I put at the top of all of my proposals:
"Hi, my name is Anthony and I play professional baseball. Here is my profile on milb.com. Anyway, I'm also a web developer..."
That got nearly everyone's attention. It was a little bit of a cheat code, I'm afraid to admit, considering my actual programming skills. But my bank account was starting to get to uncomfortable levels.
I am happy to report that I did a lot of learning on the job. My clients gave me requirements and I didn't care if I knew how to meet them or not. I was going to fulfill the contract no matter what. I never missed a deadline, my clients loved my work enough to start sending me referrals, and I was making the money that I needed to fuel my baseball career.
Both my programming and baseball careers were doing what I wanted. I spent about three years hand-picking contracts for my mini-agency and had gotten promoted enough times to earn my way up to AAA, the boss level before the final boss (MLB).
I had played in two games and, looking back at things, they were near flawless for what I was probably capable of. I had earned my coaches' and teammates' respect and I thought there might be a small chance that I might finally get to hear that sacred sentence this year: "Welcome to The Show."
In my third game, though, my career ended (even if I didn't know it at the time).
If you're not familiar, on a baseball field, a pitcher stands 60 feet (18.2m) away from home plate, where a batter swings and hits a ball back out into the field of play. If a batter really gets a good hold of the ball on a swing, the ball can reach speeds of 100+ mph (160 kph).
I made a bad pitch and the hitter managed to hit the ball 115 mph (185 kph) directly back at my forehead. Standing about 60 feet away, I had less than .4s to react and, well, not risk death. Pitchers get hit in the head like this several times a year in the MLB and it's life threatening nearly every time.
Thankfully, I'm sitting here writing this blog post, very much alive. However, I caught the ball with the inside of my throwing arm, destroying my ulnar nerve—what you probably call your "funny bone." I wasn't able to feel half of my hand for about two weeks and was getting mysterious tingling, pain sensations randomly. I ended up having to get surgery to fix it.
That moment ended my 2019 season and then the 2020 season was cancelled by COVID. Through those two years without a baseball season, I had picked up tons of web development work and was slowly learning that I was never going to be able to throw a ball the same ever again.
I called the St. Louis Cardinals and told them I was retiring.
Retirement at 22 years old, not too bad, huh?
I currently work at Vercel as a Content Engineer where I get to write tons of cool stuff on our blog. You'll also find me in some of our videos and other content. I love helping folks out with Next.js, Turborepo, and contributing to making the Web community grow stronger, together, every day.
Let's build the Web. Faster.
Okay, I officially have a blog now? Nice.