BRADENTON, Fla. -- Throughout the inaugural season of Major League Baseball’s Prospect Development Pipeline League, the team captains -- former Major League greats -- have come to IMG Academy to talk to all 80 players in attendance and spend time with them during games. The fourth and final captain to
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Throughout the inaugural season of Major League Baseball’s Prospect Development Pipeline League, the team captains -- former Major League greats -- have come to IMG Academy to talk to all 80 players in attendance and spend time with them during games. The fourth and final captain to pay a visit did so on Tuesday: Former Yankees captain Derek Jeter.
Jeter, now the CEO of the Miami Marlins, held court in a morning session before batting practice, imparting wisdom and answering a ton of questions in a far-ranging Q&A session.
“On my way over, I thought, ‘What would I tell myself?’” Jeter said in his opening remarks. “Your career goes by very quickly. Before you know it, it’s over. One thing I didn’t want to look back and say was ‘I wish I had worked harder.’ It goes beyond talent. I asked a lot of questions. So I wanted this to be more conversational. Let’s be interactive.”
The players didn’t hesitate when given the opportunity, firing questions at Jeter in a session that likely could have gone on for hours had the players not needed to get ready for the day’s games. Carson Swilling (Smith Station, Ala.) opened things up with a question about Jeter’s overall philosophy for success.
“My biggest fear in life is being unprepared,” Jeter said. “The game slows down when you’re prepared. From Little League on up, it’s still the same game and it’s still about being prepared.”
Kevin Parada (Loyola, Calif.) followed with a query about how the Hall of Fame-caliber player dealt with adversity.
“It’s a game of failure,” Jeter said. “When everyone was congratulating me for getting 3,000 hits, I said, ‘Hold on, I made 7,000 outs.’ That’s a lot of heading back to the dugout. Draw from any success you’ve had, having that confidence is important.”
In the same vein, Jeter fielded a question from Michael Brown (Vacaville, Calif.) about slumps. What was Jeter thinking when he was struggling?
“Please, God, let me get a hit,” Jeter quipped. “I had an 0-for-32 stretch, my knees were shaking. The cab drivers were telling me how to hit, the doorman was telling me how to hit. Everyone’s been there. If you haven’t struggled yet, it’s coming.”
On life in the Minor Leagues: “Minor League life is different. I was completely overmatched. I hit .202 in rookie ball, and I got hot to get over .200. I made 56 errors in my first full season. I had a good second half; I was probably on pace for 70 or 80 errors. It makes you stronger. It’s an adjustment period. That’s why you have to draw on success you’ve had.”
On routines: “I’m big on routines. It’s not how many swings you take, it’s that you have quality swings. Find what works for you and stick with it.”
On what separates good players: “The difference-maker is the mental approach. Self-evaluation is one of the most difficult exercises in any profession, but it’s important. Everyone is talented here. But not everyone is going to make it. It has to be a passion; it can’t be a job. You have to work at it. There are no shortcuts. I told myself that there are guys with more talent, but no one was going to outwork me.”
On being a leader: “Take the time to know the people you are leading. You don’t treat everyone the same; you treat everyone fairly. Lead by example.”
Other questions ranged from favorite teammates (he named Scott Brosius and Andy Pettitte because they were in the room), how he perfected his jump throw, the flip play getting Jeremy Giambi at the plate and his 3,000th hit. But the biggest message may have been his simplest: Take advantage of every chance you get.
“This opportunity, this platform, didn’t exist when I was young,” Jeter said. “You should embrace the opportunity.”
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.