Matt Perisho thought he would be retired by now, living off his major league pension, playing a little golf, coaching his kids.
That was the dream back in 1993, when Perisho, a left-handed pitcher out of Tempe McClintock High School, was the third-round draft choice of the then-California Angels.
Four years later, at the age of 22, Perisho was in the major leagues. He had made it.
But then his career went, well, sideways. He played for Anaheim and Texas, Detroit, Florida and Boston, never staying in one place long, never pitching well enough to sign that one contract that would set him up for life.
Eventually, he became agate type. From 2002 to 2006, eight different teams - including the Arizona Diamondbacks - signed him as a free agent then released him.
A man suffers so many rejections, he might think about a new career. But not Perisho, 33. This past season he played for Tecolotes de Nuevo Laredo of the Triple-A Mexican League and the Brother Elephants of Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League.
This week, he'll pack his bags and head to winter ball in Venezuela.
It's a long way from Fenway Park, but it pays the bills. And there's always the chance that one day, the phone will ring, the invitation will come and he can give his passport a rest.
"I'm on a mission," said Perisho, who lives in Chandler with his wife, Jennifer, and children, Ashlee and Ryan. "I still feel I have a lot to prove and a lot left in me."
Baseball hasn't always returned Perisho's affection. He had elbow surgery when he was 19; shoulder surgery when he was 23. In 2003, unable to find a job, he made his first trek to Venezuela for winter ball. On the front of the jersey was "Occidente," the team he played for.
On the back: "Persiho."
"I've fallen off the face of the earth a few times," he said.
Perisho hasn't played in the major leagues since 2005, when he made 24 appearances with Florida and one with Boston. The Red Sox released him at the end of the season, and then his arm rebelled once again. This time, it was three bone spurs in his elbow.Perisho spent much of 2006 and 2007 resting and rehabilitating. The Angels, Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers took a quick look once his arm had healed, but he had been out of the game for three years. He was on the wrong side of 30 and his career ERA was 6.39.
So it was off to Mexico and Taiwan - where the practices were six hours long - and now Venezuela.
Perisho could stay in the U.S. and pitch for an independent league or try to hook on with some Single-A team, but it's hard to support a family of four on $3,000 a month. The money overseas is much better and, as Perisho noted, "it's tax-free cash."
Still, it's getting harder and harder to leave home for months at a time. Ashlee is a cheerleader in junior high. Ryan plays basketball. Perisho keeps up with phone calls and text messages - thank goodness for unlimited text messaging - but it's not the same.
"The older they get, the more you miss out on," he said. "As athletes, we can never get those things back. But your kids don't stop eating, your dog doesn't stop eating, there are bills to pay. If there's a chance to make money, it pretty much has to be done."
Perisho is fortunate that his wife is his biggest cheerleader. They were high school sweethearts, so Jennifer has been there for the highs and the lows. She understands what one more chance would mean for her husband.
"It's been hard. She doesn't like the single mom aspect of it," Perisho said. "But she knows I can still play and she believes I can still play. She's my biggest fan. She believes in me more than I do sometimes."
Maybe Perisho will finally get a lucky break and a team will call. He is a left-hander, after all, and there's always a shortage of southpaws in the major leagues. Or maybe a former teammate who's become a scout or a coach will extend a hand and get him started on his second career.
If not, well, Perisho will continue to pack his bags, ice down his arm and try to get hitters out.
It's a living. It's what he loves.
"Until somebody in Asia or Mexico says I can't do it anymore, I'm going to keep doing it," he said. "This is the only thing I know how to do."