The Hall of Famer co-founded Arena Club, an online trading card platform that launched last week. He told Boardroom why this was the perfect fit for him.
For two decades, New Yorkers and baseball fans knew one Derek Jeter. He said all the right things, always hustled down the line, and most importantly, won a lot of baseball games with the Yankees. He also didn’t make much noise off the field, so when details of his personal life would leak out, they were met with the same shock and scrutiny of a major political scandal… or became iconic Visa ads.
But since his retirement in 2014, we’ve met a slightly different Jeter. While his focus was mainly on baseball during his playing days, he’s since jumped headfirst into the business world. It started with the Players Tribune, which launched just days after his final game, and most notably, continued with his brief stint as co-owner of the Miami Marlins. He’s also opened up more publicly, shedding his reputation of “boring” in his The Captain series with ESPN.
Jeter grew up collecting baseball cards and remains optimistic about the future of the hobby.
His co-founder, Brian Lee, told reporters last week about going to card shows after the hobby’s pandemic boom and seeing lines out the door — including many children, waiting to get in. For Jeter, that proves the hobby will remain relevant for years to come.
“Any time you have kids involved, that’s the next generation,” Jeter told Boardroom. “It’s just like a sports team. You go out and see kids coming and they become fans. This industry just continues to evolve and grow.”
Baseball to the Boardroom
The transition to the business world hasn’t been too difficult for Jeter. As he points out, succeeding in business takes many of the same qualities he needed to exhibit as a player.
“It’s all about the team and the people you’re with,” Jeter said. “I’ve always prided myself on knowing what I don’t know. I’m big on understanding that you have to have good teammates. You surround yourself with people who are knowledgeable and experts in particular fields. I think that’s how you build any great business.”
The challenge for Jeter, he says, has been learning patience. In baseball, you either get a hit or you don’t. You win a game or you don’t. Then you come back the next day and do it again. In business, success isn’t immediately clear.
“You have to prepare for three, four, five years down the road,” he said. “And that’s hard because you want things to happen right away. But then you think about it — even if you have success on the field, it’s not like it happened right away. There’s a lot of years to go into it.”
Lee, who comes to Arena Club from a more business-centric background, sees Jeter as the ideal fit.
“Derek is just the ideal partner,” he said. “He brings a lot of his determination and grit to the team. He’s a five-time champion and that’s the kind of team we’re trying to build. A team that’s gonna strive to be the best.”
Entering the Arena Club
Arena Club touts itself as a “bridge between the physical and digital world of sports collecting,” according to a press release that coincided with the company’s launch.
Users can log on and create digital showrooms to share their collections with other collectors. They can also buy, sell, and trade cards online, and have the option to store Arena Club graded cards in a temperature- and moisture-controlled vault.
Arena Club’s grading service was created with speed and transparency in mind. Combining a human eye and computer imaging, Arena Club will grade submitted cards and provide a detailed report of anything that may keep cards from receiving the coveted 10 score.
For now, Arena Club is going to stay focused on trading cards. Expect that to change once the company gets rolling.
“We’re gonna stay very focused in trading cards for now. We want to really grow and kind of dominate where we can dominate,” Lee said. “But then once we get to a very strong position, we could definitely extend into other collectibles. So stamps, coins, comic books, basically anything that can be graded, digitized and put on a platform.”
The Jeter Showcase
Jeter grew up collecting cards — he had all the Yankees he wanted, particularly his childhood hero Dave Winfield. Once he started playing professionally, his parents took the mantle, collecting just about every card their son ever appeared on.
Unfortunately, as often seems to be the case with card collections amassed over the years, a flooded basement destroyed the collection. Talk about the need for a guarded, condition-controlled vault.
So how’s Jeter going to use the platform?
“I’m not gonna tell you,” Jeter said with a laugh. “I’m gonna have a fake screen name so I can get the cards I want.”
Once you log on, keep an eye out for a nondescript profile loading up on Winfield cards. It just might be the captain.