Sunday we say goodbye to El Capitan. And I, for one, am devastated; but probably for different reasons than most of you. Look, Derek is an amazing ballplayer and based on the current state of professional athletes, a role model for kids everywhere. I’m not denying what he’s meant to the game, the Yankees, and fans in general but for me it’s about something deeper.
As stated in many of my other stories, I grew up idolizing Don Mattingly. And throughout most of his career (and my childhood) the Yankees were terrible. He was the only bright spot in a rather bleak era of Yankees lore. So, I get it.
I get the Derek Jeter-mania. For an entire generation of fans Derek Jeter is to them what Don Mattingly was to me. How many kids went to Little League and asked for #2? How many girls do you see wearing a Jeter shirt? Derek Jeter is all they know. Since 1996, Derek Jeter has been the (pretty) face of baseball and the Yankees.
For me, once Mattingly retired I gravitated towards Paul O’Neill, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera. Why? Maybe because those guys played hard. Maybe because those guys, at the time, weren’t the popular choice. Maybe because Jeter has always been a “pretty boy”; an easy choice for fans everywhere. But maybe for me, it was just to be different. Jeter was the obvious successor to the Yankees chain of gloriousness and being an awkward teenager at the time drove me to do the opposite of what everyone else was doing.
I guess that was my anti-establishment phase. Remember, I always took Frank Thomas in the Thomas/Griffey argument.
Flash Forward to 2014, I am a 35-year-old father of 2. All of my heroes from childhood are long-since retired and right now, Derek Jeter is the lone connection to my younger days and now that he’s retiring; once he’s gone so will that connection to those times. Growing old is a part of life, a part I’m having a hard time accepting at the moment. Jeter was never a personal hero but his retirement will leave me with a sense of loss. A sense that time is passing me, all of us, by. Nothing lasts forever.
Wow, it just got dark there for a bit. Sorry about that.
To Derek, thank you. Enjoy your retirement, it’s well deserved. You’ve always done what’s right and played the game hard. You’ve been a constant for 20 years. We don’t see that much with professional athletes these days. While you’re leaving a select few with gift baskets, I will be left with a sense of loss and despair. Baseball is a child’s game and every child grows up. Now it’s time for me to grow up.