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All-star first baseman Mark Teixeira played 14 seasons in the MLB, snagging himself a trophy shelf full of Golden Gloves, Silver Sluggers Awards and one World Series Championship ring along the way.
Entrepreneur spoke with the recently retired fan-favorite Yankee as he was teaching kids how to perfect their swings at a recent event in New York City sponsored by Canon and the Little League World Series. He may have hung up his mitt, but Teixeira told us that he is just getting started.
If you think he was competitive on the field, just wait until you get into a boardroom with him.
You’ve had an incredible career as a professional athlete. You’re 37 years old. What comes next?
My number-one focus is real estate right now. I’ve joined a group of guys who are developing land in Atlanta. We’ll be doing some really cool things over the next five-plus years.
I imagine that over the course of your career you’ve gotten pitched all kinds of business ventures. How do you navigate all of that?
I have a business manager who helps me with my financial decisions. In the very beginning, I did deals that were very natural and organic to what I was interested in. One of my most successful deals was Juice Press here in New York City. I was one of the first investors in Wheels Up, a private aviation company. Venture capital to me is really just it’s fun. I have a lot of respect for entrepreneurs who put themselves out there.
Do you see any parallels between being a professional athlete and an entrepreneur?
Absolutely. You know, you’re out there all by yourself. There’s a lot of pressure on you to the entrepreneurial world. I think you as an entrepreneur you’re really in the minor leagues for a while. You don’t go right to the big leagues. Even the greatest companies start off really small and work their way up. For entrepreneurs and pro baseball players, there are a lot of highs and a lot of lows. But if you stick to it and you’re talented, great things can come of that. It’s exciting.
Sometimes players — never you! — get into a hitting slump. What do you do to kind of refocus your mind?
You just said it: focus. In baseball and in the entrepreneurial world, you’ve got to focus on your goals. So many people will pitch you and just talk and talk and talk and you’ll sit there and wonder, “So what exactly are you doing?”
When I’m on the baseball field, I’m very focused on my immediate goals. During a game, if you start to focus on the fans, the media, stuff that’s happening at home? You lose focus on your job. I try to tell young, and heck, even older guys who are pitching me something, “Focus on something that you do well. And if you believe in that, if you believe in yourself and you can tell people exactly what you’re trying to produce, you might get people interested and be successful. But if you can’t focus as an athlete or an entrepreneur? Good luck.”
Does your competitiveness from baseball carry over into business?
I’m very competitive with myself, but I also understand that there’s failure in life. As a baseball player, I feel more than seven out of 10 times in my career. It’s the same way in venture capital. I mean you’ll probably have one out of 10 hits, like real hits. And in baseball, it’s kind of the same way you’re not going to be successful all the time right. So the mental part of the game is important: It’s not about succeeding every time, it’s having the strength to get back up when you fail so that you can succeed.
How do you see health and fitness factoring into the entrepreneurial world?
Successful young companies are putting a huge emphasis on fitness and health. They want their employees to be alert and able to work 100-hour weeks, and they want them to be happy. When I’m getting pitched, I want to see people that are vibrant and healthy and energetic. If you have someone pitch you an idea and they’re out of breath and falling asleep, they are probably not going to walk out of that meeting with my money!
Any fitness tips you swear by?
If you’re an active person in your daily life, running to meetings, interacting with people, I don’t necessarily think you need to spend two hours in the gym every day. Lifting weights a couple of days a week is very important, but if you eat well that’s way more than half the battle. My diet is not as clean as it was when I played baseball, but I try to cut down on sugars and don’t eat processed foods. They are the bane of my existence. I can feel it when I eat processed food. But listen, every now and then when my kids go out for pizza and ice cream, I’m go out with them. I’m going to have fun with my kids.
Is being a Yankee as intense as it seems from the outside?
I literally looked forward to walking into Yankee Stadium every day because it was a great office. I had great guys that I worked with and a good, dedicated ownership that wanted to win. It’s not a surprise that certain entrepreneurs keep having hits because success starts at the top in corporate culture. For the Yankees, at least during the modern era, it was George Steinbrenner. Steinbrenner built this culture of winning and gave his players whatever they needed to win.
Fans got the impression that he was a merciless ball buster.
When you’re playing, you appreciate that drive to win. I just read Elon Musk’s book and he’s very demanding, but he’s also one of the most brilliant minds that any of these people have ever worked with, so it’s that give and take. Elon Musk is literally trying to change the world, and that comes with a price. If you want to win a championship with the Yankees, that comes with a price: sacrifice, hard work, living up to a higher standard.
Baseball is a team sport, but it is very individualistic. You step up to the plate, the ball gets hit at you — how has it been to transition to the business world where you have to delegate?
That’s a great question. It’s been a challenge. In baseball, if I do my job, I get a positive result. Put it in the book, put it on the back of my baseball card — there it is. In the business world, I can do my job and still not get a positive result because of outside forces. So I’ve had to figure out how to not be too disappointed when I don’t get the result that I’m looking for. And scheduling! In baseball, life is very regimented. Show up at 3 o’clock, at 3:30 you have treatments and then you have 4:15 stretching, batting practice at 4:45, National Anthem at 6:50 and game at 7. I knew my entire day! Now, meetings get changed all the time, rescheduled, canceled — I’ve had to learn to be flexible.
What drew you to be a part of this Canon event?
I’ve always been very passionate about kids and youth baseball and so for me to go to work with a great company like Canon doing something fun with kids and baseball is a no-brainer. They’ve put together a great photo contest where you can take pictures of your kids or friends and family playing Little League baseball and submit them to win prizes, like a trip to the Little League World Series. So we’ve got a bunch of kids here at this event hitting and pitching and printing out stuff on the PIXMA printer. It’s super cool and fun to play with, and the kids are having a blast.
What do you think of your former teammate Derek Jeter’s dealings in the business world and particularly The Player’s Tribune?
MT: What I’m really looking at is what he’s going to do with the Marlins? I think Derek’s going to be a great owner someday. Hopefully, it’s with the Marlins. I’m keeping my eye on that because Derek is one of those guys who’s on everything right on the field and off the field. I think he’ll be a great owner.