I liked Xander Bogaerts before I ever saw him play.
It was up in Portland last year. I was with my stepson and father-in-law. We had attended an autograph session for my stepson’s birthday. Each player had their own table. The most popular were Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Xander Bogaerts, who had just been called up to the Sea Dogs the week before.
One autograph seeker, a 60-year-old “collector” tried to strike up a conversation with Xander and impress him with his baseball knowledge. If you have attended any of these sessions before, you know the type. They carry a binder full of signed baseball cards, each preserved in plastic to ensure their future value. Rising minor league stars are their primary targets.
Well, this gentleman was looking to impress the Sox rising star with his baseball knowledge.
“You know, if Xander was your last name, you’d be the first player in major league history to have a last name that started with an X.”
“Fascinating,” said Xander without changing expression.
On paper, this might sound rude. In person, you had to admire the 19-year-old who got what was going on and responded in a way that most of the people in line would have loved to.
In short, you got the feeling this kid might be different.
That was confirmed that night when we saw Xander play for the first time. First at-bat, home run. And it wasn’t that he hit a home run but they way he did it. The 19-year-old turned on a fastball like nobody I’ve seen since Jim Rice.
At the start of this baseball season, I made a slap bet with my stepson that Xander would be up to Pawtucket by July 4. He took the bet mistakenly thinking I meant Boston Red Sox. Turns out, I wasn’t too far off. The kid made it to Pawtucket by June and was in Boston in August.
Simply put, the kid is the real deal.
What’s the networking pointer? Well, it’s not to be disrespectful to the people who help pay your salary (as much as I thought the comment was fitting). But it does have to do with being genuine in your elevator pitches.
Don’t overpromise. Don’t exaggerate your capabilities or try to impress for the sake of impressing. Be real. Be who you are. People will see that and respond accordingly.