He is 30 years old and is a multi-millionaire, the talent comes out of his ears, he is 6 feet 3 and has the face of a Hollywood actor: the new power hitter of the Capitals of Quebec, Greg Bird, may seem to have everything for him. But this is not the case. He was ejected from his dream by a nasty big catapult.
“Do you really want to dive into all this, my story is crazy, man“, he launched me Saturday evening after his match with the Capitals.
A little over a year ago, Bird returned to the Yankees organization to try to reclaim his place with an 8e million in his bank account. A month ago, he was no longer playing baseball and coaching in high school preparing for college studies in theology or administration. Today, he is in Quebec and wants to relaunch his career. It brews in his life.
He was kind enough to have his post-game beer with me for 30 minutes. Manager Patrick Scalabrini showed up in the middle of the interview because he thought I was a bit abusing his new star player’s availability, but it was Bird himself who uncorked another beer to tell Scalabrini that everything was fine.
Independent baseball leagues often welcome former major league players into their ranks. But these are often players who have only passed through the big leagues. They are often older.
A young baseball star
But, for those who follow baseball less, let me explain why the Greg Bird case has nothing to do with all that.
Bird isn’t just major league baseball. Bird was the Yankees’ best prospect with Aaron Judge. Bird was named the best player in the Arizona league, which includes all the stars of tomorrow.
Greg Bird, after a three-run homer against the Blue Jays in 2017.
Greg Bird, he’s a guy who got a $1.1 million signing bonus when he was drafted, which was the equivalent of a first-round pick.
It was the Yankees’ future at first base. It was he who was tipped to succeed superstar Mark Teixeira, who hit 409 home runs in his career.
He was a New York hero in 2017 when he homered late against Andrew Miller, one of the best pitchers in the world in the American League Finals.
But everything collapsed after numerous injuries: shoulder in 2016, 162 missed games; right foot in 2017, 114 missed games; right ankle in 2018, 80 missed games; calf in 2020, did not play a single match.
At 22, he had hit 11 home runs in 46 games upon his arrival in the major leagues. It was crazy. It was a better start than Aaron Judge. I had written about Bird in our pages mentioning that he was a player to watch for the 2016 season. Those who make baseball pools jumped on him.
“That was a good prediction,” he told me, laughing.
“Everything was going so well and I finally screwed it up in 2016. And the next year it was still going well and I hit a foul ball in the foot at the start of the season…it was getting weird, I don’t didn’t understand too much. I was unlucky.”
Harder and harder
In 2021, he was still only 28 years old. His talent had not disappeared. But major league baseball is less cordial with older guys who have been hurt a lot.
He ended up with the Colorado Rockies, at the AAA level, and was very successful, with 27 homers. But the big league call never came. For what? “Ask them!” he replied.
He tried again with the Yankees last year, but was released after about 60 games at the AAA level. “I didn’t play well,” he admits simply. Everything changed very quickly to eject him from his dream.
So he decided this year to return to where he grew up, in a small town in Colorado, where he coached baseball in high school. He had registered to begin university studies, before receiving the call from the Capitals.
Yet his life was designed to be a Yankee for a long time. The first player he looked up to was Babe Ruth, because of the baseball movie The small field. Bird is a left-handed power hitter like Ruth.
The Yankees wanted him so badly they offered him a signing bonus as high as a first-round pick even though he was drafted in 5e round.
Aaron Judge and Greg Bird hug each other after the latter homered in a game in April 2016.
Bird has nothing but praise and fond memories of the Yankees.
However, he does not hide that the pressure was enormous. Especially since at its beginnings, the media pointed out that it was part of the new core oven.
THE core ovenit was Derek Jeter, Mariane Rivera, Andy Pettite and Jorge Posada: four legends who brought the Yankees to victory.
Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino and Jorge Mateo, it was, according to many New Yorkers, this new heart that would continue the Yankees tradition of excellence. Hello pressure.
“It’s New York! laughs Bird. Expectations are high. Everywhere you go, people come to see you, you’re a Yankee.”
“It was amazing and so enjoyable. Yes we always want to do better, but what happened happened, ”he continues.
“I love baseball”
Qualified as a flop still injured on social networks, Bird does not take too much offense.
“People are tough in New York, but they’re great when things are going well. I didn’t want to be hurt. It was not on purpose. I tell myself it was out of my control. Of course it had an effect on me and it was difficult, but that’s the way it is. There are many more people who have supported me than the other way around. In our world, the positive doesn’t sell, it’s the negative that sells,” he says.
This is why negative voices can sometimes make more noise according to him. But there was a lot more positive, in his opinion.
Bird obviously got a taste of the luxurious life of the major leagues. How is it now, the bus and the more modest rhythm of life of independent baseball?
Photo QMI Agency, PASCAL HUOT
“I do not care. Me, I like baseball. I really like baseball,” he replied. “It’s not a question of money, I’m lucky for that”.
Indeed, it’s not for the money, because his salary with the Capitals must oscillate around $ 1,000 per week (his salary is confidential, it’s an estimate that I make).
When you earn millions of dollars this young and everything stops quickly, how does it turn? His total career earnings are $8 million.
“I’ve always been smart about it. I mean, smart for a 25-year-old living in New York,” he says with a smirk. Seriously, I didn’t incur any expenses that I regret. Life in Major League Baseball is very expensive. Fortunately, the older Yankees often paid for the younger ones.
Moreover, he has a great love for several veterans with whom he evolved: CC Sabathia, Chase Headley, Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Aroldis Chapman, in particular. Note that he arrived a year after Derek Jeter.