Sports ‘And You Go for It’: Keith Hernandez on Success

by Laura House | August 03, 2018

Keith Hernandez made a name for himself as a record-smashing first baseman, most notably in St. Louis and then with the New York Mets.

You can now hear his distinct voice and commentary as a broadcaster for the Mets and in the pages of the books he’s authored, including his most recent title, I’m Keith Hernandez. And, if you’re not a baseball fan, you might know him for guest appearances on TV or from following his highly-entertaining Twitter feed (starring his cat, Hadji).

Hernandez has enjoyed a diverse and accomplished career. Life and Money by Citi caught up with him to chat about what has helped set Hernandez up for success.

What makes you feel good and optimistic these days?

Keith: Oh well, I feel very fortunate. We’re looking at a beautiful day today. The sun’s out. It’s 89 degrees. I’ve got a place where I live that I love. I’ve got a job that I like, and I’ve got a lot to be grateful for — there’s a lot to live for.

You’ve gone from the baseball diamond to the broadcasting booth to the writing desk. Are there any similarities between these roles?

Keith: There’s a connection between broadcasting baseball and playing baseball. But the big difference now is that I’m sitting in a chair and observing; I’m an analyst. I’m not out there playing, which is the ultimate — there’s definitely nothing that’s going to replace that. The writing is a whole different ball game. The only connection there is that I’m writing about baseball, and I’ve always liked to write.

Overall, I think that you have to be willing to take chances. When you’re on the field you’ve got to make decisions. Up in the broadcasting booth you’ve got to make decisions. In writing you have to make choices with a certain amount of honesty. I think the similar characteristic is not to be afraid to lay it all out there. Go for it!

Speaking of going for it, you’re on the go all the time. What piece of wisdom picked up on the road over the years has stuck with you?

Keith: Well, there’s a lot I’ve learned on the road. Number one is to get your rest so you don’t mess up your performance. Be wise about doing everything in moderation. I’ve seen a lot of guys blow it with the way they behaved off-field. So stay dedicated to what you want to be. Whether you want to be the best plumber, the best architect, the best baseball player, the best writer or the best broadcaster — have a dedication to hard work and know your limitations to keep yourself in the position to do the best job that you can do.

How do you define success? Is it an achievement you’re reaching for, or something else?

Keith: Oh, I think everybody should have something that they strive for. What else is there? What’s the reason to be alive if you don’t set a goal? And if you obtain that goal, obviously you’re successful and it feels great. But it doesn’t mean you have to stop there.

You can always get better. And when I look back on my career, I could have been a better player. There were things I did that weren’t beneficial to my career, and that probably held back my career. But you can’t beat yourself up, you know? You have your moment and you have your opportunity. When that door opens, you stick your foot in that door and you don’t let them shut it on you — you get your whole body in there and you go for it.

If you hadn’t made it in baseball, what else would you have done?

Keith: If I didn’t make it in baseball, I don’t know what I would have done. I really don’t. There was nothing else I wanted to do. Obviously, I would have found some form of work, but I don’t think I would have melded well in the corporate world. My brother says: You would have found something and you would have been successful at it. And my response is: Well, thank God I didn’t have to make that choice.

Keith Hernandez on the field

Have you heard the term “unretirement”? What does that mean to you?

Keith: Well, to me it means that someone who retires, gets bored and needs another goal. And you just can’t sit around. I think that human beings have to be motivated in life. If they’re not, I think they just kind of die inside. So that’s what I think about that.

Laura House

grew up spending many weekends at the ballpark — only as a fan (and for a team in a city 800 miles from New York). She is the editor in chief of Life and Money by Citi, and has covered travel and culture for over a decade.