What Happens as Baseball Players Age?

A baseball player in an Angels jersey waves to the crowd.

Major league baseball players and other high-level athletes have extraordinary abilities and powers that distinguish them from the rest of us, but there’s one thing that we all have in common: we age. What is that aging process like in such a finely tuned and highly developed being as a major league baseball player? Baseball writer and ESPN columnist Sam Miller explores that question in detail in this June 2018 report in ESPN Magazine.

Read it here.


1. Miller throws quite a curve ball with his final sentence. How do you interpret it? What is he trying to say? Do you think his ending strengthens his report? complicates it unnecessarily? How effective is his ending? Why do you think so? Explain your reasons. 

2. Although Miller is talking about big league baseball players, some of whom may be familiar even to non-fans, he barely mentions their names. What is his rhetorical strategy in downplaying the famous names? Given that strategy, why does he mention the names at all? How effective is the strategy of just barely mentioning the names of specific players? What are your reasons for thinking so? 

3. LET’S TALK. Regardless of how many (or how few) birthdays you’ve celebrated, you’re aging. (And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, you know.) Your body may or may not have reached its peak growth levels yet, and your mind is almost certainly still developing (and hopefully always will), but aging is happening to you. How does it feel? What can you do better now than you could a year ago? In what ways might you have declined? Think about these questions in terms of your cognitive and emotional abilities, as well as the physical ones. What is happening for you in, as Miller calls it, “the race between age and experience”? Reflect on these questions and discuss your observations with a few classmates, preferably people of different ages from yours. What have you learned from that conversation? What did you hear that might help you along your own path of aging?

4. LET’S WRITE. Miller’s article focuses on baseball players, but it’s not just baseball he’s talking about. How well would his conclusions and generalizations apply to, say, musicians, who sometimes (but not always) have longer career trajectories than athletes? What is the earliest popular music you remember hearing (perhaps something your grownups listened to when you were little)? Think of a few of those musicians. Are any still alive and making music today? Find an individual or group with available recordings (preferably live shows) encompassing a span of thirty years or longer (examples include the Rolling Stones, José José, Dolly Parton, Lata Mangeshkar, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson, Patti LaBelle, and many others). Watch/listen to the performances over the longest possible span of time. Which of Miller’s generalizations might apply to your performer(s)? How so? Write an essay giving your observations about the musicians over time, incorporating any of Miller’s points that may be relevant.

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