Every so often an athlete comes along that completely changes the face the game. As Yankees fans, we have had our fair share of legends donning the pinstriped uniform. From Lou Gehrig to Mickey Mantle. Players that have gone above and beyond the call of the game. Players that have established themselves as true legends. People whose very name demands respect, and a sense of awe and wonder.
I don't remember the great Thurman Munson, and I only saw the tail end of Don Mattingly's career. I've only heard or read stories of most Yankees greats. But, I did get to witness the career of Derek Jeter, and for that I will forever be grateful.
I don't know what else I could say about Jeter that hasn't already been said. He is a class act. He carried himself is such a quiet grace, that it demands respect. He is a a true leader. A hero and a legend. He is everything you could possibly ask for in a role model. He is Derek Jeter.
It seems surreal to think his career is coming to an end. I remember sitting in the living room, with my grandfather teaching me about baseball, calling him "the kid." He was just a rookie then, and I was just a kid learning the basics of the game. But I watched him grow, and I grew as well. The older he got, the more mature, the more respect he commanded. Not so much outright. He never gloated about his abilities, though I am sure he knew he was easily the best short stop in the game. But he was quiet, and humble. Always focused on the game. It really has been incredible to watch.
I could sit here and rattle off endless games where Jeter wowed us. The flip play in 2001 still boggles my mind. There is no way that Jeter should have been there. There is no way we should have gotten that out. Yet, during that fated ALDS game, there he was. Captain at the helm of his ship, saving the day. The dive into the stands in 2004 against the Red Sox was just another example of Jeter's dedication to the team. You just knew that he hurt himself. It brought a hush to the fans, because we were all so afraid of what the outcome would be. And there comes Jeter, bloody chin, swollen cheek, and a bruised shoulder, but made the catch. Still gives me chills to think about it. It was both terrifying and exhilarating.
One of the most memorable moments for me was the 3,000 hit. I think mainly because I had the chance to watch it with my children. They are too young to remember him as a rookie, full of potential. They are too young to have any real memory of the flip play or the dive into the stands, but 3,000? That one they remember clearly. They sat with me during the count down. Then on that faithful July in 2011, we all gathered around the television. David Price pitched to Jeter and he had his first hit of the game. Hit 2,999! My son turns to me, with this deadpan expression and says "Today is the day! He's going to make history!" It was incredible. Even my son, who had very little baseball knowledge at the time knew that Jeter would make it. So when he hit 3,000 in "Grand fashion," it really was "History; with an exclamation point!" Michael Kay couldn't have made a better call. In retrospect, I think it is the perfect way to describe Jeter's career as a whole.
20 years later, watching the end of his career with my child has been a blessing in it's own right. The spirit of my grandfather forever with me, reminding me that he told me all those years ago, how great Jeter would become. The 2000 World Series was the last one my grandfather had the chance to witness. But we watched it together, and the whole time he was like a child again, watching Jeter. It was like he was discovering a childhood hero. He seemed to enjoy the game just a little more, because it involved Derek Sanderson Jeter. These last few seasons, I have watched baseball with my children. Teaching them the way my grandfather taught me. Basic plays, calls, and pitches. They pick up on players that they enjoy, but they are absolutely spell bound by Jeter. It reminds me a lot of my grandfather.
I learned a lot from the players of my lifetime. Jorge Posada taught me to keep pushing. That last season was tough on him, but he fought back. I was in the stands when he clinched the division that year. To say that the crowd was electric was an understatement. Mariano Rivera taught me to remain humble. Greatest of all time was a title we put on him. Through it all he never once was cocky. He went out, pitched, and closed games. Always with a quiet grace. But Jeter... Jeter was always the quiet leader. The guy who taught you to keep your head in the game. Stay focused. The ultimate goal was never a personal one for Jeter. It was always about the success of the team. He was #2 because the team always came first. Even during Derek Jeter day at the Stadium. He said his thank you's and finished with a "We've still got a game to play." He refocused all to what was important. A very Jeter thing to do.
Jeter has reached into three generation of my family. He has become an icon, a hero, and a legend. He truly has been a role model, and an incredible example for anyone to follow. Focus on your dreams and success is inevitable. Remain humble, but nurture your inner confidence. Jeter is, in a word, astonishing. I am so grateful to be a Yankees fan. I am incredibly lucky to have played witness to this phenomenal career, and legendary player. I remember exactly where I was when he helped win the championships. Of all the Yankees legends, I am forever grateful that the one for my generation is Derek Jeter.
There will never be another Jeter. He truly is a once in a lifetime kind of legend.
By the way, look for another fantastic piece on our Captain from writer Steve Skinner right here on BYB tomorrow morning!
--Erica Morales BYB Senior Writer
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