NYT: Lafayette's Gil Meche in elite class of athletes

by Leslie Turk

Lafayette's Gil Meche entered an elite class of athletes when he retired last week, forgoing the $12 million he was set to earn this year.

A New York Times feature on Lafayette's Gil Meche explains why the retired Major League pitcher is a shining star in today's world of professional athletes, whose main concern is all too often how much money they make.

The 32-year-old former Acadiana High standout, who planned to attend LSU until the Mariners surprised him with an $820,000 bonus offer right out of high school, retired last week - forfeiting $12 million. Meche was a starting pitcher for the Kansas City Royals and in 2007 signed a five-year, $55 million contract, but he suffered through a shoulder injury much of last year. And while his decision may not make sense to many of us, Meche wouldn't have it any other way, the NYT reports:

The guaranteed contract is a fundamental principle of Major League Baseball, as much a part of the game as balls, strikes and outs. No matter how a player performs, or how his body holds up, he must be paid in full. Only in rare cases - an injury sustained off the field, gross personal misconduct - does a player forfeit his paycheck.

But the case of Gil Meche is rare for an entirely different reason. Meche, a 32-year-old right-handed pitcher, had a contract that called for a $12 million salary in 2011. Yet he will not report to Surprise, Ariz., with the rest of the Kansas City Royals for spring training next month. He will not have surgery to repair his chronically aching right shoulder. He will not pitch in relief, which involves a lighter workload.

Meche retired last week, which means he will not be paid at all.

"When I signed my contract, my main goal was to earn it," Meche said this week by phone from Lafayette, La. "Once I started to realize I wasn't earning my money, I felt bad. I was making a crazy amount of money for not even pitching. Honestly, I didn't feel like I deserved it. I didn't want to have those feelings again."

Meche's decision plays against type - the modern athlete out for every last dollar. There have been, over the years, athletes who took less money to play for one team over another, Cliff Lee being the latest when he agreed to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies. And yes, Ryne Sandberg retired from the Chicago Cubs in 1994, forgoing nearly $16 million.

Meche told the paper he is buying a house in Lafayette, near his parents. Read the rest of the story here.