Quiet Goodbyes: Many Players Leave Game Without Fanfare

Baseball careers often end unceremoniously.

It was a tweet that we have seen thousands of times and barely pay any attention.

Chad Pinder, a little-known yet versatile infielder-outfielder who played 553 MLB games with the Oakland A’s, retired Saturday. He did so as a minor-leaguer in the Atlanta organization, playing for the Triple-A Gwinnett Stripers.

Since becoming a free agent following the 2022 season, Pinder had been with three organizations. First, he signed with the Cincinnati Reds, then was released late in spring training. A few days later, he was with the Washington Nationals. A little more than a month later, he was released. Less than a week later, he signed with Atlanta. That was May 11.

A little more than two weeks later, Pinder retired at age 31. A video circulated from a play-by-play announcer for the Durham Bulls, the last team Pinder played against.


That he went 1-for-4 in his final game, a single in his final plate appearance, and finished with a .256 season batting average with three homers doesn’t matter. That he was technically left stranded at third base with the tying run doesn’t matter. That he soaked in the moment, stepping on home plate with both feet after the third out was made doesn’t matter.

What does matter? Pinder became just one of the latest players to have his career end unceremoniously. Sure, this was of his choosing. He told A’s beat writer Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle that he had been contemplating this move since last season, while he was still with Oakland. At that time, he and his wife, Taylor, had a son, born in 2020, and a daughter due in December.

“There’s been times where I was like, ‘Why do I play anymore, what is my purpose of playing?’ ” Pinder told Kawahara. “Over the last year or so, I couldn’t come up with the answers for it. I’ve always said that once I felt I could give more to the game outside the white lines than between them, that was probably the time.”

Careers, even those of longtime MLB players, often end without pomp and circumstance. The fact that certain players are honored with a farewell tour is rare. Only players with Hall of Fame credentials generally get that ceremony the last time they play in a visiting ballpark, often accompanied by a parting gift reflecting that city.

Now, consider those in the minors, a spot where prospects are often suspect until proving otherwise and where many careers die before even sniffing Triple-A, much less the majors. They often end the way you saw Crash Davis’ end in the movie “Bull Durham.” A manager gives the bad news that the player is being let go. They will try latching on to one of the other 29 organizations. But if that doesn’t work, the player has to choose whether to continue to pursue their career, whether it be in one of the independent leagues that are spread across the country or even go to Japan or South Korea.

Those paths don’t guarantee a way back to The Show. They just guarantee that eyes will still be on them with the hope someone notices their skills and invites them back to affiliated ball. Sometimes it happens. More often, it doesn’t.

Pinder should be fine. According to Baseball Reference, he made around $8 million in his career. Others aren’t as fortunate, the vast majority never making it to the bigs.

Some haven’t spent much time in the minors. Catcher Tyler Rando signed with the Miami Marlins as an undrafted free agent after his college career at Gonzaga. He played in eight games in the Florida Complex League in 2022, but was released a couple weeks ago by the Marlins. His career in affiliated ball could be over that quickly. Caleb Joseph did make the majors. From 2013-19, he had 94 MLB plate appearances for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, A’s, San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates. He was released or opted for free agency seven times, was taken in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft and claimed off waivers once. Joseph played in 1,193 minor-league games, but hasn’t been with a team since being released by the Washington Nationals in January 2022.

There are many stories of players that end randomly. A different direction by the organization. A lack of production. A highly touted prospect’s promotion bumps a player off a roster. An injury, which ends too many careers.

Pinder’s story received attention because he told those around him it was going to be his last game, and his final moments were captured on video. His teammates and others with the club came out to hug him just outside of the dugout. His phone certainly was buzzing with text messages of those he has played with, both in MLB and the minors. He was one of those guys who was popular with the fans as well as teammates.

Sure, he might end up coaching somewhere down the line. The rest of this season, he is likely to spend time with his wife and two kids. He plans on taking online courses in clinical mental health, a subject that has become important to him in recent years. Maybe that leads to a job in a front office where he can counsel players.

Athletes of all sports, not just baseball, have professional careers that are like shooting stars. They have a brief period where they shine bright, then dissipate into the nighttime. There is no playbook on how to handle the success and failure, the spotlight and the darkness.

Sometimes a career ends on a random baseball diamond in North Carolina, just painfully short of reaching home plate. Sometimes it ends without fully knowing why.

Steve Drumwright

Steve Drumwright is a lifelong baseball fan who retired as a player before he had the chance to be cut from the freshman team in high school. He recovered to become a sportswriter and have a successful journalism career at newspapers in Wisconsin and California. Follow him on Twitter and Threads @DrummerWrites.

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