As 2014 comes to an end and I look back at the MLB players I have had the opportunity to interview, one of the most interesting things that I have found is who these players say inspired them and served as role models when they were growing up. I think you can learn a lot about a player by knowing who they looked up to growing up. It gives you a little insight about the player and what qualities of greatness inspired them.
From reading Derek Jeter’s book The Life You Imagine, I learned that Dave Winfield inspired Jeter when he was a kid and that Jeter even had a poster of Winfield on his wall. So it was awesome when I had the opportunity to ask this question to Dave Winfield at the All-Star Futures Game this past summer and learn who inspired him when he was growing up. His answer: Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew.
It was also really interesting to learn the answers to this question from some of the All-Star players this summer. For example, Miami Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton told me that his role model growing up was Mark McGwire. I wonder if Big Mac knows that he inspired this great power hitter? Clayton Kershaw said Andy Pettitte and Will Clark. And everyone knows the Captain must have inspired many, but it was nice to hear Dee Gordon, Mike Trout, Anthony Rizzo, and future players Joey Gallo and Mike Taylor all answer “Jeter.”
I had a chance to get to know more about some of these players by asking them what was the toughest part of their journey to the bigs and what advice they would give to young ball players today. You can find the answers to these questions in this video:
Photos: Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images (Jones), Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images (Killebrew), Elsa/Getty Images (Jeter)