“Donald Trump,” said Ed Tracy, who oversees Trump’s Atlantic City properties, “is out there like a gladiator, running to the goal line. He enjoys the hunt. To him, athletics reflect the business world.”
Long before he wrote The Art of the Deal, in which he regaled readers with tales of his Babe Ruthian home runs in real estate, Donald Trump was a first baseman.
As a youth at the New York Military Academy in Cornwall-on-Hudson, where he was known as D.T., not The Donald, the piece of real estate he valued most was a spot on the ballfield. It meant a chance to compete. And win. “He didn’t like to lose,” said Col. Theodore Dobias, his high school coach.
“Nothing’s changed,” said Jeff Walker, senior vice president of the Trump Organization who was a year ahead of Trump at New York Military Academy. “It’s in his genes.”
Trump, once scouted by the Philadelphia Phillies for his slick glove and .300 bat, never made it as a million-dollar superstar in baseball. He opted for the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania and billionaire status in another arena.
But sports still flows through his veins like money through his vast empire. In the last six years, Trump has owned a pro
football team, been temporarily involved in a proposed third baseball league, evolved as a force in boxing, jumped into international cycling and staged a power boat race.
Trump the first baseman might have put his glove away long ago, but much of what molded Trump the businessman took place on the playing fields of his youth. Even as an adult, he has remained an ardent fan – he met his wife, Ivana, who was once a world-class skier, at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. He still mixes sport and romance: Before his much-trumpeted breakup this year, he was seen at boxing matches with Marla Maples.
“In the entrepreneurial ring, it’s him and the ultimate goal. He loves the opportunity to win a prize, the top prize. He’s probably shooting above it, and we don’t understand.”
Mainly, he gets exposure. Trump, who declined interview requests, loves his name in lights. “He considers sports his advertising,” said Bob Woolf, agent for Larry Bird and Doug Flutie. “It elevates everything he does.” Added boxing promoter Don King: “Donald Trump is a performer. By getting into boxing, he’s become well-known from the masses to the classes.”
At 6-2 and slim, Trump maintains an athletic look at 44. At his Palm Beach, Fla., home, he has a swimming pool, tennis court and workout facility. At his New York apartment, he has a gym. His most common exercise is walking up steps. Occasionally, he skis or plays golf, though largely for business purposes.
As a youth, Trump was a multifaceted athlete. At the New York Military Academy, from 1959-64, he won trophies in intramural softball, basketball, softball, bowling and freshman football. He lettered in varsity football, varsity soccer and varsity baseball.
“Whatever he did he was good at,” said Col. Anthony Castellano, who has been at New York Military Academy 40 years. “He wasn’t a follower. He always got out front.” Castellano’s most vivid memory of Trump: “He looked good in a baseball uniform.”
Baseball was clearly Trump’s first love. It’s the only sport he played every year, and he was team captain his senior year, 1964. “He was a pure hitter,” Dobias said. “Great glove at first base. Good range, stretch. He kept the infield alert. He took over. He was very agile, very knowledgeable. And very, very competitive.”
Dobias remembers one game in particular. In his senior year, Trump tripled to tie a game against Cheshire Academy of Connecticut. The next batter squeezed Trump home with the winning run. “He came running home,” Dobias said, “pumping his arm up and down in the air. It was a cold, bitter day in April, but he was really into it.”
Otherwise, Trump was on the quiet side. “He was reserved, not boisterous,” Dobias said. “He just sat back and analyzed everything.”
Trump started every game his last two seasons. Dobias batted him fifth his last year, but Trump didn’t go out a winner – the team finished 5-6-1.
That was the end of his baseball career. “If he worked at it, he could have gone on to Double-A,” Dobias said. “But he had other interests and didn’t want to pursue baseball.”
Apparently Trump will be the best ex-player in the White House since George H.W. Bush. In 1989, Murray Chass of the New York Times had reported on Trump’s stated willingness to take part in an effort to start up an 8-team third major league to rival MLB, with Trump’s team to be located in northern New Jersey. Here’s a screen shot of the first part of Chass’s story (you can get all of it on the Times’ site):