What CIOs Can Learn From Derek Jeter’s ‘Boot Camp’

By Jack Rosenberger

When Derek Jeter retires at the end of this season, which will be his 20th with the New York Yankees, even baseball fans that harbor a strong dislike of the Yankees cannot help but regard Jeter’s career stats with a sense of awe. Jeter will end his time with the Yankees as the team’s all-time career leader in hits (3,448), games played (2,725), stolen bases (357) and at bats (11,119) (stats as of Sept. 7). He ranks sixth in all-time hits (3,449), behind legends Tris Speaker, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb and Pete Rose, and has accumulated several trophy cases of awards, including 1996 Rookie of the Year, five Golden Glove awards and five Silver Sluggers awards, 14 All-Star selections, and awards for being MVP of the All-Star Game and the World Series in 2000. And, of course, there are the handful of World Series rings for his role as an integral member of the Yankees teams that dominated postseason baseball in the late 1990s and early 2000s, during which time they won five World Series championships.

In the presence of these stellar accomplishments, Jeter’s success in professional baseball seems almost predetermined, with one achievement on the playing field being inevitably followed by another of equal or greater significance. The reality of Jeter’s early career, however, is very different, and Jeter’s subsequent achievements are due, in large part, to the Yankees organization investing in its employees and providing with them with first-rate training. Professional baseball, after all, is a business.

Hard Times in the Minors

After being picked sixth in the 1992 baseball draft, Jeter was sent by the Yankees to play in the minors. And that’s when the 19-year-old shortstop’s defensive skills were exposed as a weakness. In 1993, his first full minor league season, Jeter played in 126 games and committed 56 errors, for a .889 fielding average that didn’t suggest much hope for progressing from the minor leagues, let alone much hope for being the New York Yankees captain.

Superior organizations understand the inherent value of their employees, and the Yankees recognized the problems with Jeter’s glove and set out to fix them. Jeter was assigned the Yankee’s minor league complex in Tampa, Fla., where he worked with Brian Butterfield, then a minor-league in-field instructor (now Boston’s third-base coach), for an intensive five-week workshop on improving Jeter’s defensive abilities.

Among other defensive faults, Jeter was timid when approaching ground balls, and his throwing arm wasn’t always accurate. Through a series of intense morning and afternoon workouts, supplemented by video review sessions, Butterfield rebuilt and improved Jeter’s defensive skillset over a five-week period popularly known as Jeter’s “boot camp.”

The Yankees’ investment in employee training was immediately rewarded. While Jeter had been responsible for 56 errors in the 1993 season, he made only 25 errors in 1994, for a much improved .959 fielding average. An always eager student, Jeter continued to work on his defensive skillset with the Yankees staff in the minors and beyond, and over the years, his fielding and throwing ability would keep improving and improving. Today, his career fielding average of .976 ranks as 30th all-time.

Invest in Your Employees

A natural question for CIOs and other IT leaders is, what’s your IT organization’s equivalent of Derek Jeter’s boot camp? When one of your IT employees is stumbling badly or just plain messing up, how does your organization help him or her? 

For IT organizations, one obvious analogue of Jeter’s boot camp is employee education and training. Fortunately, many organizations increasingly understand the value of improving employee education and training, which increased from 4.63 percent in 2013 to 4.99 percent in 2014, according to a new SIM IT trends survey. And organizations that invest in employee skills training, like Deloitte does, cite numerous benefits, including increased performance and productivity, enhanced employee retention, and better customer service.

I understand that educating and training employees is not an exciting topic for IT leaders like, for example, seven emerging technologies every CIO should know about, but they are essential if you want to help your employees grow—and to also help the odds that they will stay with your organization, as employee loyalty is one of the benefits of employee development.

Alas, if you don’t think employee education and training is worthwhile, perhaps Derek Jeter can persuade you. He’s described his boot camp with Butterfield as “five of the most important weeks of my career.”

If you or your organization offers employee education or training akin to Jeter’s boot camp, please share your ideas or experiences with our readers in the Comments section.

Photo credit: Derek Jeter as a rookie in 1995. Photo courtesy of Diamond Images.

About the Author

Jack Rosenberger is the managing editor of CIO Insight. You can follow him on Twitter via @CIOInsight. To read his previous CIO Insight blog post, “Why You Should Buy the New iPhone,” click here.

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