I was waiting in the VIP area at the Sheraton in New York City for my chance to meet a baseball legend. He wanted to meet me. What? Why? How?
Derek Jeter approached me, stuck out his hand, and simply said, “Hi, I’m Derek.”
I was nervous from the moment I was asked to host the live auction at Jeter’s 18th Annual Turn 2 Foundation Dinner. Robin Thicke was performing. Seth Myers was interviewing Jeter on stage, iconic NY sports anchor Bruce Beck was emceeing, and I was doing the live auction. What?
Growing up a huge baseball fan (the Mets are my team), I always looked up to athletes as the coolest people in the world. And even though I have Mets colors in my blood, I’ve always thought that the New York Yankees’ Derek Jeter was the classiest baseball player of his generation. Over 3,000 hits. Five World Series rings. The captain of arguably the top organization in sports. Man, I wish he was on the Mets.
This is Jeter’s last baseball season. I’ve never seen a player receive a year-long goodbye tour quite like Derek Jeter currently is. Each city that he visits, the team gives him standing ovations, gifts, and incredible support.
With all that said, yeah, I was nervous about meeting him and working the stage at his event.
And then there was Jeter, shaking my hand and telling me that his first name was “Derek.”
Jeter was calm, genuine, and happy to be talking to me. He had heard about my career as a warm-up comedian, and was briefed on how I was going to be hosting the live auction that night.
We chatted for three minutes or so about Pequannock, the town where I grew up, and ironically the town where Jeter was born. We talked about my family, my career, and I thanked him for having me and for being such an incredible sports figure for New York City.
After seeing how calm and welcoming Jeter was, I knew that I would do fine once I took the stage. Right before the live auction I looked over my notes a few times, and then took the stage with all the confidence in the world. Heck, if Jeter believes in you, you have to believe in yourself, right?
My performance was well received, particularly when I challenged a lady in the front row to up the bidding a few times. Also seated near the front were Joe Torre, Seth Myers, Tom Cavanaugh, and I almost forgot…the entire Yankees team.
For the final package, I invited Seth Myers and Derek Jeter to the stage to lead the auction. That’s when Jeter told me that lady in the front had the last name Steinbrenner. So yeah, she could afford it.
And just like that, my job was done. I went back to my table and had a steak with a couple of my high school buddies. It’s not often that I’ll share work stories like this, but for a boy that only cared about baseball growing up, this was pretty cool. After that night I can say something I never thought I would: I own a Yankees hat.
Still…Let’s go Mets! And thanks to Derek Jeter and his sister Sharlee for the incredible opportunity.