Celebrity real estate: Big-leaguer crashed at Mom's
NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball players don't usually live with their moms.
But when Eric Byrnes was first called up by the Oakland Athletics, he figured it'd be a smart way to save on rent.
"It was just like high school. She'd have breakfast waiting for me every morning and send me off," he said. "But instead of school I was going to play in the big leagues."
Byrnes, 35, retired last year after 11 seasons. He's now married with two young children and a third on the way. The family splits time between Arizona and the Bay Area, where he hosts a radio show during baseball season. He also spends a week each month in New York working as an analyst with the MLB Network.
His career highlights that when it comes to living situations, professional athletes face unusual challenges as well as opportunities.
Byrnes recently shared some of the real estate lessons he learned as an athlete on the move:
CRASHING WITH MOM
Byrnes grew up in the Bay Area. So when he was drafted by Oakland in 1998 and later called up from the Triple-A team, he said it wasn't a hard decision to move back in with mom. Rents in the area were high even then, and he wasn't ready to buy a place yet.
"I think I was one of the few Major Leaguers ever to live at home during the season," Byrnes said.
That went on for about two years. It turned out to be a smart decision; Byrnes ended up going back and forth to the Triple-A team in Sacramento.
Eventually, Byrnes decided it was time to move out of his mother's place and bought a home in Half Moon Bay, Calif. It was a small two-bedroom house on a golf course right by the ocean. "I love to golf and I love to surf so it was great," he said. And he was still not far from the stadium.
He stayed there until he was traded to the Colorado Rockies. But he was only with the team for two weeks and never bothered finding a place to live.
"I never left the hotel," he said.
After the brief stopover in Denver, Byrnes was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in 2005. That's where he decided to splurge a little by living in a fashionable part of town.
"I got the sentiment from the front office that I was going to be there for at least another year," he said. "So I took out a one-year lease on a penthouse overlooking the Inner Harbor. It was relatively expensive, but I had saved up all that money by living with my mom for a couple years."
It turned out to be a big mistake; Byrnes didn't re-sign with the team when the season ended just two months later. He had to swallow the rest of the lease. The scenario isn't that unusual among ballplayers. But in recent years, Byrnes said athletes have gotten smarter about networking to help each other find temporary living spaces.
THE DREAM HOME
After being granted free agency, Byrnes signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The deal dovetailed with his real estate aspirations, financially and geographically.
"I always wanted to buy a home in Arizona, just because you can get a lot more for your money," Byrnes said. "In California, it's tough to build that dream home because it's so expensive."
Again, he was getting signals from the front office that he'd be with the team for the long haul. So he took the plunge and bought a 6,000-square-foot home in the Phoenix area. He worked with a contractor to build all the elements he'd always wanted, including a batting cage, gym, putting green and a pool.
"I could not afford anything like that in California," he said.
But the sprawling space wasn't just for him; he'd just gotten married around that time and knew he wanted to start a family.
PAYING BACK MOM
Byrnes has since purchased a bigger home in Half Moon Bay. But the first house he bought just down the block is still in the family too; it's where his mom lives now.
"It was finally my chance to pay her back," said Byrnes.