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What Jeter in Scranton Can Teach Us About Acting

July 17, 2013

I’ve been a fan of Derek Jeter since he came to play for the New York Yankees in 1996. Sure he’s utterly charming and easy on the eye, but he always seemed more than that.  This is a guy who, as a working-class kid from the Midwest, decided when he was in elementary school that he wanted to be a professional baseball player AND play for the Yankees.  His focus paid off so that he became not only a Yankee, but also: the captain of the team; the all-time Yankee hits leader; a multi-year All-Star and a future hall-of-famer. It inspires me that he has been able to achieve his dreams and beyond while remaining, by all accounts, a really nice fellow.

But no man escapes time and Derek Jeter is, (I’m sorry to say because we are around the same age) starting to show the wear and tear time takes on his body. He broke his ankle last year and is working slowly through his rehabilitation.

Part of that process was getting back on the field, in a minor-league situation.  Jeter played several games in early July for the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Railriders, in Pennsylvania—the farm team for the New York Yankees.

Playing in the minor leagues is common for major-league players going through rehab, so Scranton has seen its share of ball players come through its stadium…but none as big as Derek Jeter.  And man did he cause a stir-literally, stopping traffic wherever he went in town.  Typically charming, Derek Jeter posed for dozens of photos and told the local media how impressed he was with the Yankees fans in town.  But the end of a recorded interview at the bottom of this Scranton-Times Tribune article, is what I believe, makes Jeter a true star.  He said, “Of course, I don’t like to be hurt, I don’t like to go on rehab, but when you’re here, it’s fun to be here because you remember what it felt like years ago when you were in the minor leagues trying to get up.

Of course, I know Derek Jeter is media savvy, but I’m still inspired by that seemingly off-the-cuff remark.  Sure, Derek Jeter would rather be playing in the Bronx. But he’s reflective enough to use his time in Scranton to not only flex his ankle, but also to do a little internal work on his own motivation and why he is a ballplayer, and remind himself to stay true to the kid who dreamed of becoming a Yankee.

So what can that teach us actors?  Well, I’ll be the first to admit that I can get a little cynical about the industry at times. So wherever we all are in our careers, maybe we should start treating it like the major league and remember the excitement of our “minor league” days.  (and I think this works wherever you are in your career- union or not/student or not/working regularly or not, etc.)

A few examples for me:

-THE UNIONS:  These days, I roll my eyes a bit when paying my dues and grumble about the unions not helping me as much as I think they should.  But I remember the day I booked the job that made me eligible to join SAG, I literally jumped around my room, elated that I would finally enter the ranks.  I remember feeling like my SAG card was a sign that I had earned a sort of professional status and that the years of hard work and training was paying off.  I was so proud.  I’ll try to remember that feeling going forward.

-MY REPS:  I like my reps but there are times when I wonder why they can’t respond to my messages more quickly or send me out on more auditions.  But the day I signed with them I took myself out to lunch and celebrated with champagne because I was proud that a busy and productive agent decided to help me advance my career.  I’ll try to remember that feeling going forward.

But if I’m truly honest, Jeter in Scranton has made me reflect on another shameful fact…that sometimes, I don’t try as hard as I should when actually acting.

I remember those first auditions and jobs I got when I first finished my training. I prepared for them as if I was up for a starring role a new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical…working on my voice and projection and objectives in the script with a coach; scheduling time to just focus on my prep.

But as the years have gone by, I have developed a bit of a lazy attitude about some of my prep work and even some of my actual work.  Part of it comes from disappointment with how things in the industry really work and part of it comes from financial strain, but all of those are just circumstances. The only one I’m hurting with my lazy prep work is me.

But Derek Jeter is different.

I saw him play in Scranton one night in early July.  He played that rehabilitation, minor league game as if it was the World Series.   That’s because that’s how he has played every game from his high school days to the actual Major League championship.  That’s how he achieved his childhood dream.

So the next time I’m auditioning for a SAG Ultra-Low-Budget, instead of my usual thoughts of “oh, it’s just a ULB, whatever.” I’ll remember my minor league days when I dreamed of booking such a role and I will prepare as if Mr. Lloyd Webber will be in the room.  And the next time my agent sends me an audition appointment, I’ll remember my own minor league days when I stood in line for hours at open calls, and how excited I was just for a chance to get in the room.

Jeter in Scranton has taught me that I have to treat my acting career like I’m the captain of the Yankees, working at the top of my game, while remembering and honoring each exciting step on my way to that place.

Has a sports star ever inspired your acting career? I’d love to read about it in the comments below. Except, of course, if you’re from Boston…. !

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