Inside Derek Jeter’s plan to build a winner in Miami

MIAMI — FOR TWO DECADES as New York Yankees shortstop, Derek Jeter distinguished himself with his impeccable work habits and mind-numbing consistency. He hit .310 in the regular season and .308 in October, and the teammates who accompanied him on his journey will attest that his demeanor in Game 7 of the World Series mirrored his approach in routine April games at Tropicana Field or Camden Yards.

Jeter embodied the phrase, “Control what you can control.” But nothing could prepare him for his first game as an owner, and the helplessness of waiting for DJ Khaled to finish his 30-minute set in time for Jose Urena’s scheduled first pitch of the 2018 season opener.

The Marlins were hosting the Cubs on March 29, and as game time approached for the 12:40 p.m. ET ESPN broadcast and DJ Khaled wrapped up his new team song, “Just Gettin’ Started,” Jeter kept checking his watch and calculating the logistics. That stress-inducing moment provided a window into the challenges awaiting Miami’s new baseball messiah.

  • The Red Sox are riding high, but they aren’t a lock to win it all just yet. How strong are their chances, and who could stand in their way?

  • Can Boston set the MLB wins record? Who will emerge as the NL’s top team? MVP? And who ya got — hits or whiffs? Baseball minds want to know.

  • Aaron Judge says the goal is to beat Boston. It’s not impossible, but resting up for the wild-card game and (hopefully) beyond could be wiser.

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“It’s funny,” Jeter says. “I never thought I would be sitting in the stands worried about whether or not our stage would be taken down prior to the first pitch. Those are the little things you never really take into consideration when you’re a player.”

In his role as Marlins part-owner and chief executive officer, Jeter is responsible for making sure everything runs on time — and the ushers are polite, the farm system is stocked and the in-game entertainment is, well, entertaining. No detail is too small, and each correct decision brings the Marlins closer to relevance and Jeter’s ultimate goal: a sixth championship ring.

More than 10 months have passed since a group led by Jeter and billionaire businessman Bruce Sherman bought the Marlins from Jeffrey Loria for $ 1.2 billion and embarked on two grand experiments. The first: build a foundation for sustainable success in Miami, where the Marlins have won two titles but surpassed 2 million in attendance only twice over the past 24 seasons.

The second: show the world that a former player with no experience in the corporate or management realm can make a successful transition to ownership. Jeter reportedly has a 5 percent stake in the operation, but he’s 100 percent invested emotionally.

Jeter still owns his 32,000-square-foot Tampa manor, dubbed “St. Jetersburg.” But he now lives full-time in Miami with his wife, Hannah, and their daughter Bella Raine, who turns 1 on Friday. Among the other firsts he has experienced in the past year: his first owners meetings and his first spring training, Opening Day, amateur draft and trade deadline as a chief executive.

His vision persists even as Brian Anderson, Magneuris Sierra and Rafael Ortega man the outfield spots previously held by Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna. The Marlins are 48-73, 20 games out of first place in the National League East and last in the majors in attendance, but Jeter is ardent in laying out the tenets of his mission statement.

Jeter insists on building a “first-class organization.” Surrounding himself with good people is pivotal. Accountability is paramount. And he is resolute in his expectations, even though he’s part of a different club now.

“It’s strange,” Jeter says. “When you’re a player and you’re playing against a particular team, all you think about is beating them, beating them, beating them. When you come into an ownership situation, so many people are reaching out and wanting to help. People keep asking me, ‘Is there anything I can do to help? Is there any information you want to know?’ I thought initially I was being recorded for some hidden camera show.”

Ask him the simplest question — why does he need the headaches when he could be out playing golf, basking in his celebrity status and sitting on his $ 265 million in career earnings — and he reflects on a life decision he made in his formative years in the Yankees’ system.

“I moved to Tampa full-time when I was 19 years old,” Jeter says. “I wanted to work out at the minor league complex every day, because I always thought in my head if it came down to a decision between promoting me or someone else, they would say, ‘Well, at least we see him working hard.’ That’s the reason why I moved down to Tampa.

“While I was there around the minor league complex, I tried to learn as much as I possibly could about scouting and player development. I started saying it publicly about 10 years before I retired: I could never see myself coaching or managing or scouting. I wanted to have an opportunity to build something, and I spent as much time as I could learning about how baseball operations are run. And there’s a lot. I’m still learning every day I’m here.”

“When you’re a player and you’re playing against a particular team, all you think about is beating them, beating them, beating them. When you come into an ownership situation, so many people are reaching out and wanting to help. People keep asking me, ‘Is there anything I can do to help? Is there any information you want to know?’ I thought initially I was being recorded for some hidden camera show.” Derek Jeter on his new role in Miami

Along with David Beckham, who is bringing a Major League Soccer team to the city, Jeter is the most prominent face of Miami sports these days. He is gradually coming to grips with the scrutiny.

“If you think anything that happened over the winter is going to deter him, you’re sadly mistaken,” says Marlins manager Don Mattingly. “There are going to be some bumps in the road, but he’s not going to give in or give up. He was the toughest player I’ve ever seen mentally, and that translates to what he’s doing now.

“It would be hard for me to doubt what he says and what he’s going to do when he makes a commitment to something. I believe in him 100 percent — where he’s going and where we’re going. I believe this is going to be a great place for years to come.”

A group led by principal owner Bruce Sherman paid $ 1.2 billion to buy the Marlins from longtime owner Jeffrey Loria. Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

EACH DAY MOVES Jeter another step beyond the wave of missteps and self-inflicted wounds that put him in an early public relations hole. An onslaught of offseason trades and a reduction in the payroll from $ 115 million to $ 91 million were only part of the reason for the backlash.

The Marlins engendered outrage when they parted ways with organizational favorites Tony Perez, Andre Dawson, Jeff Conine and Jack McKeon. Stanton and his agent, Joel Wolfe, ripped the organization after the December trade that sent him to New York. A scout was laid off after cancer surgery, and Jeter took flak for attending a Monday Night Football game during baseball’s winter meetings.

After years of largely Teflon news coverage, everything stuck. The last time Jeter felt this besieged, he was making 56 errors in the Sally League in 1993.

Dec. 7, 2017

Traded Dee Gordon and international bonus slot money to the Seattle Mariners. Received Robert Dugger (minors), Nick Neidert (minors) and Christopher Torres (minors).

Dec. 11, 2017

Traded Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees. Received Jose Devers (minors), Jorge Guzman (minors) and Starlin Castro.

Dec. 14, 2017

Traded Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals. Received Daniel Castano (minors), Zac Gallen (minors), Sandy Alcantara and Magneuris Sierra.

Jan. 25, 2018

Traded Christian Yelich to the Milwaukee Brewers. Received Isan Diaz (minors), Monte Harrison (minors), Jordan Yamamoto (minors) and Lewis Brinson.

Aug. 10, 2018

Traded Justin Bour and cash to the Philadelphia Phillies. Received McKenzie Mills (minors).

Even good news came with a twist. During Jeter’s first day on the job, the Marlins heralded his arrival on their team Twitter feed. In one of the photos, he sat at a desk beside an industrial strength dispenser of hand sanitizer. It belonged to David Samson, the outgoing Marlins president. But USA Today ran a story with the headline “Derek Jeter has a giant hand sanitizer dispenser behind his impressive new desk,” and fans on social media speculated that the Captain might be a closet germaphobe.

Six months later, the dispenser is history, the old black carpet has been replaced by a lush off-white, and the combination of overhead lighting and sun streaming through the front window gives Jeter’s surroundings an eerily dream-like quality. He faces a massive tank filled with tropical fish that is another remnant of Samson’s tenure. His ambivalent reaction suggests it would not be his first choice if he were designing the office from scratch.

Jeter, clad in his new uniform of dark slacks and a white collared dress shirt, is generally at his office by 9 a.m, and his work day can extend to 13 or 14 hours when the Marlins have a home game. He oversees strategy meetings and leans heavily on Caroline O’Connor, the team’s senior vice president and chief of staff, and Chip Bowers, the former Golden State Warriors executive entrusted with running the Marlins’ business operations.

Among the big-picture items on his agenda: negotiating new TV and stadium naming rights deals, “rebranding” the team uniform and colors, upgrading the spring training complex in Jupiter, Florida, and figuring out where the Marlins are headed with All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto, the team’s best player and a free agent in 2021.

Jeter sweats the little things, as well. When the Marlins recently promoted 2018 draft picks Connor Scott, Osiris Johnson and Will Banfield from the Gulf Coast League to the South Atlantic League, Jeter was in the loop and offered his thoughts on the transition. He knows because he made the same jump in the summer of 1992.

“It’s good to have an owner who understands the difficulty of advancing through the minors to the majors,” says Gary Denbo, the Marlins’ vice president of player development and scouting.

Craving honest feedback from fans, the Marlins have installed video machines marked with “Dimelo” (“Talk to me”) throughout Marlins Park, where patrons can review their game experiences. Courtesy of Jerry Crasnick

Jeter craves feedback from ticket holders — the blunter, the better. Before this season, the Marlins installed video booths at the park marked with the Spanish word Dímelo (talk to me). He brings up the videos on his computer and diligently watches them, in the same way his management predecessors might have read letters or emails from the fan base.

The days are full enough that Jeter has little time for strolls down memory lane. He passed on a trip to Yankee Stadium for the 1998 World Series reunion, and some Marlins people wonder how he’ll navigate the summer of 2020, when a seminal event will slot in between the All-Star Game and the trade deadline.

“Two years from now, our CEO is going to have to take off a week so he can be inducted in the Hall of Fame,” says Michael Hill, the Marlins’ president of baseball operations. “Is that a first?”

Jason Latimer, the Marlins’ vice president of communications and one of several former Yankees operatives in Jeter’s inner circle, demurs.

“I doubt it will be a week, knowing him,” Latimer says. “The latest possible flight, he’ll take it.”

Facing a tough battle to win back the fans of South Florida, the Marlins are averaging just 9,677 fans per game after trading away several popular players during the offseason. Courtesy of Jerry Crasnick

IN THEIR PUBLIC and media interactions, Marlins officials walk a fine line. They want fans to understand the magnitude of the challenge they face in building a competitive team. Yet they’re hesitant to engage in too much Loria-bashing, because it runs counter to Jeter’s mandate that people need to be “accountable” and refrain from excuses. He never has been, and never will be, a “sun got in my eyes” kind of guy.

But as Jeter finds his footing, he makes no apologies for the direction of the franchise.

“The bottom line — and I can’t reiterate this enough — is that we took over an organization that was broken,” he says. “They hadn’t been to a postseason in 14 years or had a winning record since 2009. That’s black and white. If we came in and didn’t make any changes, people would think we were crazy.

“It’s a complicated history here with the fan base. We want them to trust us. But we have to earn that trust, and it takes time. The response we’ve gotten from people we’ve met with has been overwhelmingly positive. There’s been a negative narrative out there as well, but here in Miami, we don’t hear it.”

Jeter has done lots of what he calls “relationship mending.” Two local officials — Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez and City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez — threw out ceremonial first pitches before the season opener. Gimenez, who boycotted Marlins Park for much of Loria’s tenure and was a persistent critic of the previous regime, received a 64th birthday cake and a ballpark tour courtesy of Jeter in January and urged fans to be patient with the new ownership group.

“The bottom line — and I can’t reiterate this enough — is that we took over an organization that was broken. They hadn’t been to a postseason in 14 years or had a winning record since 2009. That’s black and white. If we came in and didn’t make any changes, people would think we were crazy.” Derek Jeter

At a more granular level, Jeter has reached out tirelessly to season-ticket holders, sponsors and business partners, along with prospective new season-ticket holders, sponsors and business partners. He has done everything but go door to door and place leaflets in mailboxes.

“Re-engaging with the community is our No. 1 goal as an organization,” he says. “We’re Miami’s team, bottom line. We want South Florida to be proud of this organization. We want them to root for us. We want them to show up and have a great time here. And in order for us to do that, we have to be out there in the community. That never stops.”

Before the season began, Jeter mingled with local business leaders at a Dinner on the Diamond event at Marlins Park. In February, he appeared at the Chamber of Commerce’s Chairman’s Circle member meeting. The chamber has since begun making plans for an annual baseball event at the Jungle Island adventure park each April.

“Loyalty is a two-way street,” says Alfred Sanchez, president of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. “When you have two world championship teams that are dismantled, it’s hard for fans to keep interest. Everybody says Miami fans are fair-weather fans, but we haven’t had a winner for a long time.

“If anybody can do it, I believe Derek Jeter can. I’ve been extremely encouraged by how accessible he and his staff are, and how much they’ve reached out. That’s a totally different story from previous management and previous owners.”

The Marlins quietly earned some goodwill when they brought back Tommy Hutton, the popular color commentator who was let go in 2015. In June, the team invited Hutton back to emcee a 25th anniversary celebration of the franchise’s inaugural season. The appearance morphed into a stint doing pre- and postgame work, and Hutton will make 48 appearances on Fox Sports Florida through the rest of this season.

Amid numerous reports that Jeter wants to rid Marlins Park of the “Homer” sculpture in center field, Jeter refuses to be pinned down publicly. His comments are reminiscent of his playing days, when he mastered the art of being accessible without saying a whole lot.

“Before I acquired the team, I heard that I hated the sculpture and wanted it moved,” Jeter says. “I never even answered a question about that. The only thing I’ve said about it was that it’s ‘unique.’ We’ll see what the plan is. We will let you know if there’s any plan.”


DEREK JETER THE PLAYER developed a great comfort level over 25 years in uniform. Now that he’s an owner, he makes it a point to keep his distance out of respect for the players’ personal space. When he does show his face, it’s with a purpose.

Earlier this season, Jeter began accompanying the Marlins’ department heads downstairs for individual meet-and-greets. Representatives from the ticket sales, advertising, security and other departments introduced themselves to the team and shared their name, hometown, length of service with the organization and a personal “fun fact” during a 15-minute talk. The lesson: We’re all in this together.

“I told the players, ‘When you’re playing, you don’t realize how much work goes on behind the scenes,'” Jeter says. “I wanted every single person in the front office to go down and introduce themselves, so the players understand there are a lot of people working in their behalf. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle.”

Veteran infielder Martin Prado filed away one particular morsel from Jeter during those encounters.

“He said it’s like building a new building,” Prado says. “If the base of that building is strong, even if it’s 100 floors, it’s not going to fall. But if you have a weak or fractured building, you’re not going build over that fractured base. That’s the mentality they have here now. ”

2018 first-round pick Connor Scott fits the mold of athletic middle-of-the-diamond players that the Marlins are seeking to build their team around going forward. AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

JETER WILL FOREVER reflect fondly on his draft experience with the Yankees, when scout Dick Groch stalked him as a high schooler in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and lobbied the Yankees to select him No. 6 overall in 1992 when everyone thought he was bound for the University of Michigan.

“He’s not going to Michigan,” Groch famously said. “He’s going to Cooperstown.”

In early June, Jeter got a chance to see how the sausage is made during the 2018 draft. As the Marlins’ picks unfolded, he watched video and offered comments on a player’s swing path or the strength and accuracy of a catcher’s throwing arm. When the Marlins made their first selection, Jeter picked up the phone and passed along the name of Tampa high school outfielder Connor Scott to club representatives Geoff DeGroot and Juan Pierre at the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, New Jersey.

“I think you understand the draft, but you don’t realize until you see it how much preparation, time and energy goes into it,” he says. “It’s kind of a surreal experience.”

Jeter enjoyed the process enough that he hopes to get out in the field and scout some prospects personally in 2019. He is gradually broadening his old-school worldview and coming to grips with the balance to be struck between the eye test and modern analytics.

“First of all, I’m not a scout,” Jeter says. “I don’t even know if I would have drafted myself. But I know what type of players we wanted to draft, and we were fortunate that our first few picks were exactly who we wanted. We wanted to draft athletes — players who play in the middle of the field — and we were able to do it.

“I like to have as much information as possible in making a decision, but there are certain things analytics can’t measure. You can’t just take a player from one city and plug him into the next and know exactly what’s going to happen. There’s a human element to it. We want to use analytics, not necessarily the most, but we want to use it the best. That’s a learning experience, too.”

A Yankees coach during Derek Jeter’s time in the Bronx, Gary Denbo, blue shirt, is a core figure in Derek Jeter’s vision of a successful team build around homegrown talent. Rob Foldy/Miami Marlins

ABOUT 80 MILES north of Marlins Park at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, Gary Denbo is on the front line in Jeter’s building initiative. Their bond goes back to the early 1990s, when Jeter was a promising young shortstop and Denbo was his first professional manager in the Gulf Coast League. It persisted throughout Jeter’s final seasons in a Yankees uniform, when they met for regular offseason workouts.

“The first word that comes to mind when I think of him is consistency,” Denbo says. “There are a lot of guys who run out ground balls, but he did it for 20 years. Every year, he would call me about two weeks after the season and say, ‘OK, this is what I need to work on. When are we going to get started?’ It was the type of mentality that said, ‘I’m not satisfied with where I am.’ Five of those years were after World Series victories, and he still wasn’t satisfied. He was always trying to get better.”

Denbo, Jeter’s baseball point man and one of his most pivotal hires, is a bit of a lightning rod in industry circles. He is unquestionably regimented, efficient and hardworking, and the white board in his office reflects his fondness for detail. It includes flow charts, a rundown of the Marlins’ professional, amateur and international scouts and information on all of the team’s 2018 draft picks. The white board and the corridor wall outside his office both display his six-word mantra: Service. Trust. Respect. Integrity. Value. Excellence.

But there have been some rocky moments early in Denbo’s tenure. In June, Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports wrote a story detailing the tensions, flare-ups and turnover under the new regime. Multiple sources, speaking to ESPN.com on the condition of anonymity, described examples of Denbo losing his temper and berating or castigating the performance of interns, scouts, players, coaches and other subordinates in the Marlins’ organization. They said his domineering managerial style has been a drag on staff morale.

“Everybody is walking on eggshells,” says one person familiar with the Marlins’ internal dynamic. “It’s great to have accountability, but not when you’re leading in fear or people are being verbally abused. That doesn’t create a positive work environment.”

During a trip to Class A Greensboro, Denbo took note of the crates that housed the team’s popular bat dogs and addressed the situation with a clubhouse attendant. According to people familiar with the encounter, the tone of his message ranged from a stern admonishment to something more biting.

Denbo characterizes his approach as a necessary-yet-painful part of the transition.

“We’re putting into place accountability for how you go about your job here,” Denbo says. “We’re trying to raise the expectations and have higher standards in the organization. Am I direct and honest with people? 100 percent. Absolutely, I am. But there’s a sense of urgency to get the organization back on good footing and back toward competing for championships, and it’s part of my responsibility to do that.

“I’d be the first to tell you that I’m still learning. If I’m asking other people in this organization to make adjustments and raise their standards, I have to do that myself as well. Nobody’s perfect. Are we all going to make mistakes? Absolutely. I have. But it’s my intention to treat everybody well and with respect. I can’t do anything about people that have left this organization and decided to take shots on their way out the door. At some point, the people who are talking about these things have felt like they haven’t been treated properly. And that bothers me.”

Denbo has hired several new people to help execute his plan. Dan Greenlee, formerly with the Yankees, oversees a beefed-up analytics department. The Marlins have changed amateur scouting directors, from Stan Meek to D.J. Svihlik, and hired former big leaguer Fernando Seguignol as their new director of international operations.

At the ground floor, the Marlins are taking some pages from the Yankees’ developmental playbook. In February, two dozen minor leaguers came to Jupiter for a “Captain’s Camp” marked by 10 days of workouts, meetings and presentations from Mike Lowell, Alfonso Soriano and other guest speakers. The Marlins also have introduced a community service initiative for players in the farm system. In July, first-round pick Connor Scott and others visited the West Palm Beach VA Hospital to take part in a music class with veterans. Soon after, compensation pick Will Banfield and some teammates spent time at the Palm Beach Children’s Hospital.

Denbo’s penchant for detail knows no bounds. The development staff has put together individual, two-to-three-page development plans for each player in the system, and Denbo is in the process of assembling an organizational system plan in what he calls a “big thick binder.” How exhaustive is the plan? The hitting segment begins with instruction on “how to properly grip a bat.” Organizational rules and expectations are a further outgrowth of the belief — shared by Jeter, Denbo and Mattingly — that consistency in player development is vital.

“It has to be a little bit military in the minors because there are way too many guys for things not to be clear-cut,” Mattingly says. “If you let guys get away with stuff down there, they get up here and all of a sudden it’s, ‘Donnie, you’ve got to take care of this guy.’ That’s not the way it should work. We talk about the ‘Yankee way,’ and there have been some criticisms. But if you look at it, it’s not so bad. It’s hard to argue with 27 world championships.”

2018 draft picks Connor Grant, Cason Sherrod, Connor Scott and Cam Baird perform for a music class at West Palm VA Medical Center as part of a new Marlins community outreach program. Cato Cataldo, Miami Marlins

JETER OCCASIONALLY VENTURES down to a seat beside the third-base dugout to watch games, but he prefers taking in the action from an upstairs box where he can dissect the proceedings from a wider-angle lens. It gradually dawned on him that he was doing too much nervous eating for his own good, and he recently vowed to swear off the chicken tenders and other ballpark fare in the owners’ box.

He views the game through the prism of a purist and takes note of the mistakes that can make a difference between winning and losing games. When Marlins players give away at-bats, miss cutoff men or show less-than-optimal effort running out routine grounders, they can rest assured the CEO is watching. Over the long term, Jeter thinks it’s beneficial when players struggle, because every 0-for-4 is a test of that player’s ability to bounce back the next day.

“I’m a frustrated game watcher,” Jeter says. “Over the years, I heard people say, ‘He doesn’t like to watch baseball. How’s he going to own a team?’ I always said when I was playing that I would rather play the game than watch it. When you can’t impact the game, it’s frustrating. It’s the little things you pay attention to, and that’s what frustrates you.”

Jeter holds more sway in dictating the product outside the lines, and he constantly monitors the promotions, music and other elements that define the in-game entertainment experience for Marlins fans. Only in Miami can an MLB team find room on the schedule for Jewish, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Nicaraguan, Venezuelan, Colombian and Mexican Heritage Nights at the park. That’s a carryover from the Loria regime.

Under the direction of Elisa Padilla, the Marlins’ new senior vice president of marketing and community relations, the team has added 10 Neighborhood Nights to the schedule this season. The Marlins are out in the community doing public service projects, holding baseball clinics and reaching out to fans in Doral, Kendall, Coconut Grove and other neighborhoods near Marlins Park.

“I’m a frustrated game watcher. Over the years, I heard people say, ‘He doesn’t like to watch baseball. How’s he going to own a team?’ I always said when I was playing that I would rather play the game than watch it. When you can’t impact the game, it’s frustrating. It’s the little things you pay attention to, and that’s what frustrates you.” Derek Jeter on watching games as CEO of the Marlins

“In my mind, baseball needs to cater to the younger demographic,” Jeter says. “It’s not always about who wins, but the experience you have. Everything that happens in this park has to capture the energy, culture and diversity of Miami. We are catering to that diversity, from the music to the food.

“In terms of the in-game experience, this is a transitional year and a learning year for us as an organization. I can’t say I’m going to make your experience better if I don’t know what your experience has been.”

Whether watching from the seats or his suite, Derek Jeter knows that the Marlins “need to win” to attract fans to Marlins Park. Mark Brown/Getty Images

FOR JETER AND the Marlins, the challenge of competing in the NL East has become more pronounced with the recent ascent of the Phillies and Braves. Industry reviews of Miami’s prospect haul for Stanton, Ozuna, Yelich and Dee Gordon were mixed, and ESPN’s Keith Law and other outlets still rank the team’s farm system in the bottom third among MLB clubs.

But the Marlins have added depth to the system with the addition of more than 30 players in trades over the past year, and they’ve made expenditures under the Jeter regime that were previously unheard of in Miami. They exceeded their $ 8.66 million June draft bonus pool by 4.5 percent and paid a $ 300,000 penalty as a result. They spent $ 1.8 million — more than double the allotted value for the 69th overall pick — to sign Will Banfield, a Georgia-born catcher who was bound for Vanderbilt University.

They’re also on the prowl for international talent. When they acquired $ 250,000 in pool money from the Seattle Mariners in a recent trade for outfielder Cameron Maybin, it was a first in franchise history. The Marlins’ $ 4.35 million international bonus pool is the second highest in baseball to the Baltimore Orioles’ $ 8 million-plus stockpile, and they hope it will give them a fighting chance to sign Victor Victor Mesa, a Cuban sensation who could be a natural fit in South Florida.

“This should be a destination spot for every Latin player, amateur or professional,” GM Hill says. “They should want to play here. It’s a great city and a great ballpark, and they’re going to want to be a part of what we’re building.”

Do the Marlins need a drawing card the magnitude of a Jose Fernandez, Stanton or Jeter to rekindle fan interest? The owner doesn’t necessarily subscribe to that theory.

“You still need to win,” says Jeter, who notes that the Marlins finished 28th in attendance last year even with Stanton hitting 59 home runs.


EMILY GLASS, WHO joined the Marlins in the spring as the team’s new education coordinator, has a background that’s diverse, to say the least. She spent two years as an NCAA Division II softball player at Pomona College in California before traveling to Australia, where she played in an age 18-to-35 men’s baseball league. After that, she coached a Little League baseball team in Japan. “I’m always just trying to have fun,” Glass says.

Early in her tenure, Glass found some situations she thought needed addressing and approached management with her concerns. There were minor leaguers who had slept in quarters with no air conditioning. She informed Jeter and Denbo, and the problem disappeared. When she suggested hiring two or three full-time teachers and buying new Dell computers for a learning lab in the Dominican Republic, Jeter signed off on the initiative.

“We don’t need much to change the conditions, lives and support that we give the players,” Glass says. “But everything I’ve needed, Derek has said, ‘No problem.”’

As part of Glass’ curriculum, the Marlins focus on education and real-life concerns. Players in the low minors receive instruction on everything from budgeting to cooking healthy meals to financial planning to tipping clubhouse attendants. What might be common practice in other organizations is a world beyond what has transpired previously in Miami.

“It’s for all the 18- or 19-year-olds who have never been away from home,” Glass says. “Anything our players need and don’t know, we’re going to teach them.”

Language instruction is at the heart of the program. During Jeter’s time in New York, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams were among his most valued teammates and closest friends, and he never understood why clubhouse communication was a one-way street. So as the Marlins’ young Latin American players take English lessons, the American-born players and coaches will be required to learn Spanish.

On Thursday, Jeter hauled a bunch of vice presidents into a room for the first of what will be regular weekly lessons in Español.

“I’ve been to the Dominican and Venezuela,” Jeter says. “I went to Cuba with Major League Baseball in 2016. So I’ve been to those countries and tried to learn as much as I could about their cultures. Everybody expects the Latin players to make an effort to speak English. Well, especially here in Miami, if you don’t speak Spanish, you don’t fit in. I think it’s important.”

Derek Jeter doesn’t join manager Don Mattingly and the team on the field often, but when he does make an appearance, having the future Hall of Famer around leaves quite an impression on Marlins players. AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

WHILE JETER GREW accustomed to the big stage over 2,905 games as a Yankee, he has never been especially comfortable with grand entrances or public admiration.

Before he spoke at the Captain’s Camp in February, the Marlins’ video department assembled a three- to four-minute compilation of his noteworthy moments — from the celebrated flip of the ball to nab Jeremy Giambi at home plate in the 2001 AL Division Series to the dive into the third-base seats to catch a Trot Nixon foul pop in 2004. Jeter made one thing clear before his arrival: The video had to be over before he entered the room.

“It’s uncomfortable to sit there and watch highlights of yourself before someone introduces you,” Jeter says. “I’m like, ‘Gary, if that’s what you want to do, fine, but do it before I get there.”’

Jeter is more at ease in unstructured, one-on-one interactions with fellow ballplayers. Glass was recently tutoring a young Dominican prospect at Marlins Park when Jeter popped in unannounced. The minor leaguer looked at his right hand after the introductory bro-grip with an expression that suggested he might never wash it again.

“If you change the scenery, it was just like Derek was in pinstripes walking up to a teammate who just arrived in the big leagues and saying, ‘Dime, hermano. Soy Derek,”’ Glass says. “It was exactly the same.”

Some big leaguers are smitten, too. Earlier this year, Miguel Rojas was asked to move off shortstop to make room for J.T. Riddle, and Jeter took part in a group sit-down with Mattingly, Rojas and Hill. Rojas grew up in Venezuela idolizing two shortstops — Jeter and Venezuelan countryman Omar Vizquel — and he would like nothing more than to see the Marlins owner come out and take a few ground balls one day for old times’ sake.

“That’s one of my goals during the season — to pick his brain and talk to him about how he prepared to play 162 games at shortstop,” Rojas says. “I feel like it’s a blessing that we have Derek Jeter around and we can take advantage of that.”

When Jeter spoke at a business function at the East Hotel in downtown Miami in February, the Chamber of Commerce contacted the Marlins to make sure all the details were in order. Did he need a car service to transport him to the event or a representative to accompany him? They were told no special arrangements were necessary. But Jeter still had to enter the building through a back entrance so he didn’t cause a traffic jam in the lobby.

Upon arrival, Jeter made some brief opening remarks, then yielded the floor for questions. After some candid give-and-take, he signed autographs, posed for photos, looked everyone in the eye and took his sweet time to make sure that no attendees felt shortchanged.

“He doesn’t want to be handled,” Sanchez says. “He’s not a gilded lily. There’s a great buzz when he comes into the room. But he doesn’t want to just come in for a momentary encounter and be whisked away. He tries to fit his schedule into what makes everybody else feel good. What celebrity does that?”

It’s all part of the balance Jeter must strike as a new team owner and baseball icon. He’s the best, most persuasive advocate for the Marlins franchise, but he wants it to be less the Derek Jeter Show and more a long-range team effort to build something that lasts.

So he arrives at the park early each day, rolls up the sleeves of those white dress shirts and gets to work. Feel free to question his judgments and his decisions, but have no doubt about his mandate: He didn’t come to Miami to lose.

www.espn.com – MLB

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