Dontrelle Willis, whose ubiquitous smile and rocket arm has lit up baseball the last few years, is a client of a small agency named Sosnick-Cobbe Sports, Inc. Matt Sosnick is the hard-charging head of the agency. Sosnick gave complete access to ESPN.com staffer Jerry Crasnick to follow him around for a year so that the author can detail the life of a sports agent. What emerges is an interesting yet disturbing portrait of a business fraught with uncertainty, intense and often unethical rivalry, low margins for the small fry, and insanely long work hours. The book is certainly not a recruiting handbook for the agency profession.
Sosnick gave up his job as CEO of a San Francisco high-tech company to pursue his passion of representing athletes. According to Cranick’s narrative, he very likely lowered his income significantly and increased his working hours exponentially. What motivates hard chargers like Sosnick to become glorified nannies of preternaturally talented yet immature stars? At first, it is difficult to fathom this as Crasnick takes us through the trials and tribulations of wooing athletes for representation. For every Willis who succeeded in major league baseball and is cashing in, Sosnick’s agency carries a number of ball players who are languishing for pittance in the minor leagues and who may not go up any more. And, yet, everyone one of them has to be wooed for long periods of time, starting as early as in high school in many cases. Rival agents compete aggressively for young athletes and apparently are quite nonchalant about poaching others’ clients.
In the end, though, Sosnick’s motive becomes clear. Putting in eighteen-hour days pays off when one can represent an athlete like Dontrelle Willis. Born amidst poverty and rampant drug use in Oakland, California, Willis developed his natural talent to throw a baseball accurately and hard to attract the attention of major league scouts. While this is not singular, for there are several such athletes, what sets Willis apart is his personality. His wide, toothy smile complements a large, generous heart. He is clearly a man-child having a tremendous amount of fun and success. To see his success and know that Sosnick-Cobbe was an essential part of Dontrelle Willis spurs Matt Sosnick to continually look for more such athletes.
The book is engrossing in detailing the life of a sports agent. The cadences of everyday life in the minor leagues and baseball scout meetings are well laid out. The one problem is in the book’s structure. Arguably, the most important time in a baseball agent’s professional life is the annual draft. This is where athletes that the agent represents are selected by teams and where contracts are negotiated. Crasnick does not build the book toward that seminal event. Instead, he introduces the draft suddenly without preparing the reader for it. This aside, the book delves deep and hard to profile the life of a baseball agent, and provides quite a telling antithesis to the glamorous life portrayed in the movie Jerry Maguire.