What is there to be said about Derek Jeter that has not already been said?
Mr. November. Shortstop. Yankee. Ambassador of baseball. Class Act. Champion. Humanitarian. Human being. All-around good guy. All of these could accurately describe the long-time Yankee Capitan, and they have been used to describe him since he started playing the game. But how do I go about describing Derek Jeter? Well, it’s complicated.
My first real memory of Derek Jeter came out of a fuming hatred of the Yankees. I was nine and knew nothing about the team was set to play my beloved Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series. The only thing I knew was that they were an evil team, information given to me by my family and family friends. Rodger Clemons was amazing, but not a good guy. Andy Pettitte just looked scary to me. Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera seemed likable, but you hated them for the uniform they wore. And worst of all, they said, was Derek Jeter, or Derek Cheater as my friends called him. Hatred, pure and deep, ran through my house for this team.
Here I am, thirteen years later, singing his praises.
What changed? A lot, really. As I began to grow up and form my own opinions about the New York Yankees, I realized that they were not a league of evil villains. They were not this terrible conglomerate of players who sought to make everyone’s lives miserable. I began to see them as good guys, good players, and a storied franchise. I have an Andy Pettitte t-shirt now, the same pitcher who used to scare me when I saw close ups of him on the mound. And, Derek Jeter has been my favorite player for the Yankees for years now. It all changed because I could appreciate everything he did, without being blinded by other people’s hatred.
Watching Jeter play was a blessing and I regret that I could not have watched him more. His signature flip to first base, his staggering number of hits, all of it was astounding. He never asked for the attention to be put on him and he put the team first, one of the reasons why he was always in the spotlight. And not only was he in the spotlight, people didn’t mind him being there. People liked him. He was a superhero in the steroid era, never once getting a whiff of suspicion blown in his direction. He never said anything bad about anyone. It’s amazing, really.
Jeter also believed in giving back to his community, something that may not make him unique, but it puts another level of respect on the man. Again, it was never about him. He wanted to help others. He wanted to help his teammates. He was a selfless player that has my upmost respect.
No lie, I may or may not have cried a little when I watched him break his ankle in the 2012 post-season. This man had become a human being once again in that moment and it was heartbreaking. I was watching with my family, so I couldn’t show how upset I was. I had secretly been rooting for New York. I also may have cried when I saw he was not going to play much in 2013, and definitely cried watching him and Andy pull Mariano Rivera out of his last game. The Core Four era will be officially over after this year, and that makes me want to cry.
I’m so sad I will probably never get to see Jeter play in person. So this year, as I have for many years, I will have to admire his talent from afar. I hope he can play more than 17 games this year and I hope he can be at least half the player he used to be. Regardless, he is slated to go out on top. If you thought Rivera’s farewell tour was big, just you wait. I project Jeter will be honored in every city and every stop along the way, but it will all be deserved. He is a man who deserves whatever good vibes people throw his way.
I hope that this season, people will really give Derek Jeter a good look. I hope that they will treat him with the respect he deserves. I hope he goes out on top. And more than anything, I hope that he will find happiness after the season is over. God, I hate getting this sappy; it kinda skeeves me out, but I guess great players just bring out my sappy side. So thank you Derek Jeter for bringing out my sappy side. I am sorry I discounted you early in my life and I am sorry it took me so long to come to my senses.
So, yeah, I’m gonna cry watching you play this year, but I’m not mad about it. I’m happy for you Derek. Really. Go out and do your thing. Me and the rest us baseball fans will be rooting for you.