Tuesday, December 18, 2018


Word of the Month




“… 1. the fact or condition of excelling; superiority; surpassing goodness, merit, etc. 2.  something in which a person or thing excels; particular virtue ...."  
Webster's New World College Dictionary, 4th. ed.





Derek and the Fan:


A Commitment and Moment

Devoted to Excellence  


Edward F. Gibbons, Jr., Ph.D. 

 Yesterday I had an article on excellence all ready to be posted on Rockford Kingsley’s website, but then something incredible happened and I knew that I had to rewrite the article. Before I get into the specifics of the new article, let me provide the background. The setting is New York City – the mecca of corporate greed, the Big Apple, the City that never sleeps, the City and people with an attitude! Now, let’s zoom into one of the City’s five boroughs: The Bronx.   Located in The Bronx is the new Yankee Stadium which is located at E. 161st. Street and River Avenue, and it is there on July 9, 2011 that we experienced an incredible event – an event that was an outcome from a career devoted to excellence and a moment that exemplifies an unselfish act and doing the right thing – a moment of excellence.
The stars of the event were the captain of the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter, and a fan, Christian Lopez, whose girlfriend bought four left field bleacher tickets in the first row of Section 236 for Christian, his Dad, and two friends.  
Derek Jeter
This is Derek Jeter’s 17th season playing shortstop for the New York Yankees.  Over the years Derek has become a Yankee icon, and five years after he is finished playing professional baseball he will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Yesterday, Derek played a baseball game for the ages. He started the game needing just two base hits to reach the magical number of 3,000. In all of major league baseball’s history, just 27 players had attained 3,000 base hits or more. In the first inning Derek Jeter got a base hit to left field – hit number 2,999 – just one more to go! In the third inning he came up with one out and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays star left-handed picture, David Price, on the mound.  Derek worked the count to three balls and two strikes and after fouling off two more pitches, at exactly 2:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Savings Time, Number 2 of the New York Yankees, the Captain, Derek Jeter, hit David Price’s next pitch (a slider) over the left field fence for a home run and hit number 3,000. It was a script right out of Hollywood; truly remarkable. The home run by Derek Jeter tied the score at 1-1.  Jeter’s epic day did not end there.  
It is now the bottom of the fifth inning and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays led by a score of 3-2. Derek is the first batter to hit in the bottom of the 5th and he lines a two base hit into left field.   The next batter, Curtis Granderson, singles to right field and Jeter scores the tying run.   Jeter next bats in the sixth inning, and with two outs he lines a single to right field. With Curtis Granderson at bat, Derek steals second base. Granderson then strikes out to end the inning. 
We now move to the bottom of the eighth inning, the score is now tied 4-4.   Jeter bats third in the inning and with a Yankee runner on third base he singles to center scoring the runner which turned out to be the winning run. The Yankees went on to win the game by a score of 5-4. Derek Jeter finished his remarkable day getting five hits in five at bats. He scored two runs, drove in the winning run, and stole a base.  All of this on top of being only the second player in major league baseball history to hit a home run for his 3,000th base hit. Jeter finished the day with 3,003 hits.
So, why is Derek Jeter such an icon? Twenty-seven other players had attained 3,000 hits or more, and many of those players (e.g., Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Willie Mays) were better ball players than Derek Jeter. Even with respect to the Yankees, it could be argued that Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle were better ball players. So, what is it about Derek Jeter? This answer is this – throughout his 17 year career he has maintained a total commitment to excellence both on the ball field and off. Think about it, he is relatively young, rich, handsome, a future hall-of-famer, the Captain of the New York Yankees, and Derek plays in the world’s largest media market. Not once in his 17 years as a Yankee has he been implicated in using steroids or any other act that would discredit his family, his name, and the New York Yankees. Derek is the poster person for developing a brand name and keeping that name clear of controversy.

For Derek Jeter, attaining excellence is not just about outcomes. Attaining excellence is about being excellent in the moment; it is about the process of continually striving for excellence. His incredible outcomes both on July 9, 2011 and throughout his hall of fame career are not by accident. They are the result of his total commitment to the pursuit of excellence.   

The Fan: Christian Lopez
Sometimes we don’t plan for opportunities, they just come our way. This is what happened to Christian Lopez. He was just a fan sitting in the first row of Section 236 of the left field bleachers at Yankee Stadium. He was enjoying the game with his Dad and two friends, waiting anxiously for Derek Jeter to get his 3,000th base hit. Unbeknownst to Mr. Lopez, Mr. Jeter was to cross his path a few seconds after 2:00 p.m. 
There is no need to repeat what happened at exactly 2:00 p.m., July 9, 2011 at Yankee Stadium. As Derek Jeter hit David Price’s pitch and sent the ball on a high arc toward left field, opportunity was coming Christian Lopez’s way. It was an opportunity that took only a few seconds to greet Mr. Lopez, but it was an opportunity to exhibit unselfishness, and to grasp a New York moment of potential greed and turn it into a moment of excellence in character.
As the ball carried deep to the left field bleachers, Christian Lopez stood to take a picture of what looked like to be a base hit. He soon realized, however, that the ball was heading directly his way! His father reached out and fumbled the ball but Christian grabbed the ball as it rolled in front of him. He now had in his hands Derek Jeter’s home run which was also his 3,000th base hit!! Wow!! According to reports, that ball would get the owner about $250,000 in the sports memorabilia market. So, what did Christian do? He gave the ball to Derek Jeter because he deserved to have the ball – Double Wow!! He didn’t care about the large sum of money he would get for the ball, what he cared about was doing to right thing. Christian Lopez’s opportunity provided us with a moment to reflect about what we do with the opportunities that come our way.   His opportunity provided us with a moment to reflect on the true meaning of excellence in character.
As it turns out, Christian’s generosity towards Derek Jeter had some very positive outcomes. As a thank you for giving Jeter the ball, Derek gave Christian three signed baseballs, three signed bats, and two signed jerseys. The Yankees also gave him four front-row Legends seats to Sunday’s game (July 10, 2011), and four Champions Suite tickets for the rest of the season and the playoffs. Sometimes good things do happen to good people!
As Derek Jeter awoke the morning of July 9, 2011, it is likely that he had on his mind that it would be nice to get two base hits that day and reach the 3,000 hit milestone. Never in his wildest dreams did he think that he would play a baseball game that will live in Yankee folklore. In a postgame interview, Derek stated: “If I would have written [the script of the game] and given it to someone, I wouldn’t even have bought it…” However, Derek DID write that script through his commitment to the process of attaining excellence. Was he lucky? NO! As the Roman philosopher Seneca stated: “Luck is where the crossroads of opportunity and preparation meet”. 
As sometimes happens in the crossroads of our lives, there are innocent bystanders.    At this crossroad of opportunity and preparation, Derek Jeter met Christian Lopez – a fan enjoying a ballgame. It is what Christian chose to do with his moment of opportunity that exemplifies excellence in character. Instead of taking the path of narcissism and greed, he took the path of unselfishness and doing what is right.   We should pause and reflect on Christian’s moment of decision and action. When we encounter individuals and situations in the crossroads of our lives what do we typically do? Do we ignore the moment and walk away? Do we exploit the moment for our personal gain with no regard as to who may be affected by our decision and action? Or, do we, like Christian, do the right thing and not worry about our personal gain? 
Thank you, Derek Jeter and Christian Lopez for providing us with lessons into the importance of committing to the pursuit of excellence and taking an unexpected opportunity to exhibit excellence in personal character.   It was a baseball game that I will always remember as a lifetime fan of the New York Yankees and as an individual committed to the pursuit of excellence.



 Excellence Links
The following is a list of links to websites devoted to Excellence.
Pursuit of Excellence
Pursuing Excellence
Surrender and Joy
in the Pursuit of Excellence
Where Does Personal
Excellence Begin?
Pursuit of Perfection,
Performance Excellence,
Living Your Dreams
Copyright 2015 by Rockford Kingsley Ltd.