Paul Janish has always had to make adjustments. That's the life of a fringe major league player.
The 35-year-old Janish, who spent several weeks with the Baltimore Orioles in 2017 filling in for injured shortstops J.J. Hardy and Ryan Flaherty, played 473 major league games with the Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves and Orioles, but during this past season he knew it was time to start thinking about life after his playing days.
Janish wanted to remain in baseball, but he wasn't sure if he'd stay with the Orioles' organization or go back to college. When a job as an assistant baseball coach opened up at his alma mater, Rice University, he knew the timing was right.
"I wasn't going to get called up again in September," Janish said. "It would have been difficult for me to pass up going to the big leagues in September."
So while playing for Triple-A Norfolk in August, Janish announced he'd be leaving to take the coaching job.
Less than two months after his final major league at-bat, Janish returned to a college campus. Now, Janish, who played on Rice's NCAA championship team in 2003, is busier than ever.
In addition to his job as an assistant coach, Janish is taking three of the five classes he needs to fulfill the requirements for an economics degree. He is also a husband and a father to three small children.
After leaving the Orioles' organization, Janish returned to his suburban Houston home where he and his family are living in a rented house just a few blocks from the Rice campus.
"It's been an adjustment getting back into study mode," Janish said.
Janish's classmates are often about 15 years younger than he is, but he's found it isn't hard to fit in, especially after trading in his large truck for a bicycle. He rides a bike, like many students do, to navigate the campus but also to commute home.
While a classroom obviously is a different environment than a major league baseball stadium with thousands of screaming fans, Janish is enjoying his new life.
"The classroom thing, it's not as foreign as you may think," he said. "That part of it, I actually find to be almost interesting, almost you could argue therapeutic a little bit. I kind of enjoy it, and it's interesting material."
Taking tests again has been somewhat nerve-racking, however.
"I've never, by nature, been ... nervous," he said. "Even playing, I was always pretty even-keel. It's probably a good quality, right? ... I hadn't taken a test in a long time. ... You're reading through the test and you find that you have 50 minutes to take it, and all of a sudden, my hands are sweating, and I'm nervous."
Janish is much more relaxed on the field, where he's one of two coaches assisting Owls head coach Wayne Graham.
Graham, 81, has been coaching at Rice for 27 years. More than a half-century ago, Graham had a brief major league career, playing for legendary manager Casey Stengel's 1964 New York Mets.
When Graham heard Janish was eager to get into coaching, the head coach thought Janish would bring a level-headedness to his program.
"You've had success, but you haven't had enough that it's spoiled you in any way," Graham said of Janish. "You've had to fight your whole life, so you relate to all of the players. [It's] not only the stars that you can relate to, you can relate to the guys that are struggling. I think it makes for, potentially a much better coach."
As the hometown Houston Astros won the World Series, Rice's players found it hard to believe Janish had been a teammate of their heroes.
"To me, it's not that big a deal because that's just the way it is," Janish said. "But to these guys, it's, ‘How do you know [Houston catcher Brian] McCann?'"
As far as what the future holds, Janish isn't thinking too far ahead.
"I'm still, relatively speaking, fresh off of playing and still very much in touch with a lot of the people I played with," Janish said. "I made a lot of close friends in the Orioles' organization.
"What happens after Coach [Graham leaves]? Who knows? There's no way to know that. By no means am I writing off at some point going back to [the major leagues]. I hope that I would have that opportunity based on some of those relationships."
Issue 240: December 2017
Originally published Dec. 15, 2017