Monday, June 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Derek

Perhaps the most recognizable Major League Baseball player celebrated (although I'm not sure if that's the right word) an anniversary of his birth last week, June 26. You see, it was the big 4-0! What does the 0 mean? It's means Oh my, where did those years go?

The birthday boy, as most of you can guess from the subject line is Derek Jeter, of the Yankees, yes those same hated Yankees, unless of course you actually reside in NYC or are part of "Yankee Nation". When I meet someone who "roots" for the team with by far the most money in a sport without a salary cap (don't even bring up the "luxury tax", what a joke) I ask that same Yankee fan if they also "root" for the Apple Corporation or MicroSoft. If the Yankees need a player, the team simply go out and buy one, but I digress.

Even though I fall into the Yankee hater category, it's hard not to "like" the team's perennial shortstop who in this his 40th year, is playing in his 20th and last season. It will be strange in the 2015 campaign to see someone else play the key defensive position for the team that has won more World Series titles than any other, more than twice as many. It's a gross understatement to say that Derek is and has been a "classy athlete". In an era where athletes move from team-to-team on a regular basis, it's worth noting that Derek has been a Yankee his entire career. And, also in an era, sad to say, when many, not all by any means, have had their off-the-field challenges in various situations, Derek has been nothing but exemplary!

Here's a quick summary of Derek's amazing career.

  • five time World Series champion
  • all-time Yankee leader in hits, games played, stolen bases and at-bats
  • thirteen All-Star selections
  • five Gold Glove awards
  • five Silver Slugger awards
  • two Hank Aaron awards
  • Roberto Clemente Award recipient
  • only the 28th player in MLB history to get 3,000 hits

But here's something you might not know about Derek (besides the fact he's been the most eligible bachelor in NYC for quite some time and dates, well, let's just say, some pretty notable women [you do the Googling on that one]).

Drafted directly out of high school in 1992, he made his Yankee debut in the 1995 season and became the Yankee's everyday shortstop the following year, winning the "Rookie of the Year Award" and helping his team win the first of his 5 "Commissioner's Trophies" emblematic of MLB's championship, more commonly known by term "World Series". What the record books don't indicate are the struggles Derek had fielding his position in the early going. In plain terms, he committed an unusually high number of errors in his first couple of seasons and then, in dramatic fashion, turned that statistic completely around where it has remained for virtually his entire career.

In a TV interview on CBS's "Sixty Minutes" with the late Ed Bradley, when asked about the aforementioned dramatic turnaround in his defensive statistics, Bradley suggested that experience likely played the major role. Derek's response is something we can all take away. He explained simply, "I stopped being afraid to fail!".

What he was really saying is that what changed was not his skill set, it was his "attitude" toward the task at hand. He might just as easily have said that he stopped trying to be perfect, a topic about which I've written in the past in "A Pane in the Glass: A Coach's Companion" largely thanks to what I learned about "the pursuit of perfection" from Kevin Koe's sport psychologist, Dr. John Dunn (he's the guy you see on the Coaches' Bench wearing Koe colours).

It's really dangerous this "pursuit of perfection". There's nothing wrong with the pursuit per se, once again it's your attitude toward it that matters.

I've stated many times with curling teams that although the team tries to make as many shots as it possibly can, the final outcome of the game is tied much more to how the team deals with the shots it misses than the number of shots made. Think about the games your team has played when the number of shots made between your team and your opponent is similar. I'll wager the "w" or "l" was more about the recovery, or lack of recovery, from shots that didn't get the 4/4 on the stats sheet.

Happy Birthday Derek! Thanks for the great role model! That was a "gift" you gave to all of us who care about sports!

No comments:

Post a Comment