The athletes selected in the 2002 draft by the Oakland Athletics epitomize the harsh reality of professional sports: Few succeed, while most fail.
On a larger scale, that also encapsulates the reality of the American dream. Photographer Tabitha Soren set out to capture this struggle when she first started documenting the young athletes, knowing the odds were slim that the 21 players would be in the MLB in a few years.
Only 17 percent of players that get drafted ever make it to the major league, according to the Washington Post.
Fifteen years later, Soren’s instinct were correct—right down to the stats the stats. Five of the players—Nick Swisher and Joe Blanton are notable examples—made it to “The Show” with varying degrees of success. The rest now coach Little League and have jobs like coal mining and insurance sales.
In a Vanity Fair essay written by Dave Eggers, Soren describes it best:
“Baseball is a metaphor for all these other fantasies that are part of American culture: The fantasy that failure leads to success, despite hitting the ball successfully only around a third of the time. The romantic myth of the restless wanderer, even as they cram in 162 major-league games a season. And the central American fantasy that says we have to do something extraordinary to lead a meaningful life.”
That American dream, filled with triumph and heartbreak, has been distilled into a book that features 149 of Soren’s photographs, accompanied by a five-part story written by Eggers. The words and pictures are accompanied by totems of the athlete’s tales, from childhood baseball cards to x-rays of injuries.
Together, Fantasy Life paints a vivid picture of life’s rollercoaster that athletes endure for a shot at the big leagues. Available in April, the book can be ordered here.