Investment Lessons From A 34-Year Old Minor League Baseball Player

Your “moment” is about preparation and forethought.

You have probably never heard of Blake Gailen. Until two years ago, neither had I. A Los Angeles-area baseball standout in his high school days, Gailen went on to star at UNLV but was not drafted by a Major League team. He spent the next decade in and out of Major League organizations, but often ended up back with the independent league Lancaster Barnstormers, for whom he now holds several career hitting records.I first started tracking his career during the 2017 World Baseball Classic, which is essentially the baseball Olympics. He played for team Israel (qualifying due to his Jewish heritage) and was part of a group that made a miracle run in that tournament, and qualified that country for next year’s Olympics in Tokyo, where baseball will make its return after a 12-year absence.As for the investment tie in, Gailen did something recently that reminded me of one of the most unheralded parts of being a successful investor: preparation. In today’s immediate-gratification, buzz-worthy world of high-frequency trading, unicorn IPOs and Robo Advisors, we rarely get reminders that investing is not only serious endeavor, but one in which long-term success is about honing one’s craft, adapting as the situation demands, and being in an ever-conscious state of preparation.


Preparation for what, you ask? For a chance to do something that you never could have done without that planned effort. In investing, the benefits of such preparation may be seen over many years. In the case of Blake Gailen, now a 34-year old player for the Los Angeles Dodgers AAA team in Oklahoma City, preparation helped him create a most memorable…and strange…night.Gailen, an outfielder, mentioned to the Dodgers during spring training that he was able to pitch if and when needed, though he had not taking the mound since high school. But recently, with the team a bit short on pitching for a game, he was activated as an emergency pitcher. He had worked with legendary Dodgers knuckleball pitcher Charlie Hough during spring training, and so that preparation, in addition to his strong spring to earn a roster spot at minor league ball’s equivalent of AARP status, made what happened that night not only a longshot, but a testament to good old fashioned sweat equity.As it turned out, the Dodgers needed an emergency pitcher that night. Gailen was brought in so that the Dodgers would not have to overuse a regular pitcher. As it turned out, the Dodgers fell behind 12-5, and by the 6th inning, it made sense to bring in a non-pitcher to finish the night. Gailen got the call with 2 outs in that inning. Then, it got weird.The Dodgers added a couple of runs, while Gailen threw 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, giving up just one hit. The Dodgers trailed by 5 heading to the bottom of the 9th, but rallied for 6 runs to win the game…and make 34-year old knuckleballer/outfielder Blake Gailen the winning pitcher.This was one baseball game in a long season, at the minor league level. But like many stories in sports, life and investing, it didn’t turn out as it did because of an accident or a fluke. Gailen, like many minor league players in their 30s, are committed to doing whatever it takes to contribute, and to extend their own careers by whatever means necessary.Related: Extreme Selectivity in Equity Portfolios Remain the Priority


Investors are often faced with a choice: they can accept what is given in the market environment, or they can learn to throw knuckleballs…just in case. I remember the late 1990s as an investor. That was a time when many felt that the business cycle no longer existed, and that whatever threats to wealth existed, they would be easily overcome soon after. Learning about how to protect their portfolios, become more flexible in their investment approach, employ hedging techniques and other less-common elements were the kind of thing that few investors bothered with. Later on, they wished they had.Blake Gailen had a night to remember in front of 3,600 fans on April 16, 2019 because he put himself in position to do so. There was no guarantee that a chance would come, there was no guarantee he’d be successful if it did. But as in baseball as in investing, if you prepare for the uncommon as well as the routine, your odds of sustained success improve tremendously.