“The only place he’s going is to Cooperstown,” New York Yankees scout Dick Groch told his high-ups and convinced them to draft Derek Jeter with the sixth overall pick in the 1992 MLB Draft. Now, that’s a call.
It took a series of steps (or missteps) by the Houston Astros and the Cincinnati Reds for Jeter to end up a Yankee. It took a long time for him to develop into the Jeter we know. And it is so good to see him go to the Baseball Hall of Fame as soon as he became eligible.
My understanding and love for the game of baseball are intricately interwoven with the Yankees and their championship-winning dynasty. I came to the US a cricket-crazy fan, but in the pre-internet era, it was hard to get the latest videos and news. Baseball became a panacea. As a lonely immigrant, I spent rest days watching the Yankees games (and this was a time when they really stunk). I learned the game, and I felt it made me more American. Now, I’m approaching three decades of baseball watching baseball, and nothing gets me more excited each New Year’s Day than the idea of spring training.
Jeter joined the team in 1995, and the rest, as they say, is history. While my favorite Yankee of that championship era was Bernie Williams, I can’t help but hold a special place in my heart for DJ. I never really loved Jeter, but I respected him. And every time I saw him on the field, I could feel that something would happen.
And every time I see old videos of DJ, it is a gentle reminder of what it takes to be great at something: immense talent, fortitude, intelligence, presence of mind, and hard work. There is something unexplainable — maybe luck, timing, ability, and/or divine intervention — that turns a great career into a legendary one. It is not just sports. In every aspect of life, getting that perfect combination is the key. Whether it is journalism, literature, movies, music, sports and yes, even business — you need it all.
Jeter’s approach to baseball and his career would be a good lesson for all founders. I have written about this in the past, so I won’t repeat myself. Instead, I will share this text from an old article about Jeter.
He has become the hero of the Bronx because he effortlessly exudes the qualities we wish we had ourselves: He is always confident, always composed, always in control. Baseball is an unpredictable game; failure is a constant. But Jeter doesn’t allow himself to absorb it, or even really acknowledge it. He just keeps cruising along, as if playing shortstop for the most scrutinized, glorified sports franchise in the world every day for the past fourteen years is the most natural thing on earth.The New York Magazine
What made Jeter standout, and what should be important for all of us — our attitude towards what we do.
Good or bad, you have to forget about what happened the previous year. Once you’re satisfied, you’re in trouble. I don’t think negative. If that’s the case, why are we playing? Let’s just plug everyone’s names into a computer. If everyone knows what’s going to happen, what are we all doing here?The New York Daily News
Here are four things that every founder could learn from Jeter.
- Consistency wins the day.
- When opportunity knocks, you’d better open the door.
- Lead by example.
- Focus on the bottom line: The ultimate goal.
Even before Jeter played for the Yankees, his fate was sealed. Today, reality caught up with what the stars had written for him many decades ago. I am glad DJ played for my team.
January 23, 2020, San Francisco