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Look for drive in those you lead

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in Leaders & Managers

When it came to leading a Major League baseball team, former Houston Astros manager Larry Dierker pursued this simple philosophy: “My high school coach used to say you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. The first thing is to identify the ones that will drink.”

One spring, a young outfielder named Richard Hidalgo impressed Astros coaches and scouts so much that they considered promoting him to the Major League club when the Astros ended spring training. But Dierker felt Hidalgo needed more seasoning in the minors before making the jump to the majors.

 When Dierker broke the news, tears welled up in Hidalgo’s eyes.

 “Your ability [puts you] in the top three of all the outfielders we have,” Dierker told him. “But right now, I couldn’t play you every day. Your time will come, and it may come soon.”

 Then, Dierker offered to let Hidalgo play two or three innings with the Astros the next day in a spring training game before heading off to the minor league team. Or, Dierker said, Hidalgo could take the day off to deal with the disappointment of not making the big club.

 Instead, Hidalgo said he wanted to start his seasoning with the minor league team right away. That, says Dierker, is when he knew Hidalgo was “one that would drink.” And today, he’s a star outfielder for the Astros.

— Adapted from This Ain’t Brain Surgery, Larry Dierker, Simon & Schuster. 

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