A couple years back a friend was visiting me here in New York City. After the first night of pub-crawling around Manhattan he said to me, “Man, if I had any real money I could get into a lot of trouble in this town.”
No truer words had ever been uttered about “The City That Never Sleeps”. Now imagine if you were a multi-millionaire, the Captain of the New York Yankees and one of the most sought after bachelors in the world…Oh, I’m sorry I was imaging.
Derek Jeter is a great story of determination and heart. He is everything you could hope for in a Captain and Champion. He is modest, believes in “Team first” and leads by example. But it is much more than that. When Derek was developing the skill set it would take to succeed at the Major League level he’d already been given a head start in my opinion. It all began in Jeter’s home. Our Captain isn’t the highest rank in the family. As we get ready to say goodbye to an All-time Yankee great we should also tip the cap to the two “Admirals” that help make him the person he is today.
(In photo: Dick Groch, left)
It is clear to me that Dr. & Mrs. Jeter have done a Hall of Fame job in raising their son. Managers, scouts, agents and the organization may get much of the credit when it comes to Jeet’s success, but make no mistake; his parents deserve the lion’s share. They instilled the right values in their son and he kept true to what he learned as a kid growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
I had an exchange with a Baltimore fan the other day and he mentioned that he was, “Sick and tired of all the Derek Jeter stuff.” I defended the Jeterian Celebration, not as a Yankee fan, but as a baseball fan. When Derek does walk away at season’s end the game will lose a true throwback player and an outstanding ambassador. Jeter is not only what is good about baseball, he is what’s good about heroes. He is the example parents can urge their kids to immolate. This misguided O’s fan was seeing the fuss over the Yankee Captain through a narrow, angry and jealous pair of glasses. Look at the NFL or the NBA. More and more Professional athletes are more self-involved than ever before. They don’t take on the responsibility that comes with the privilege of playing at the highest level. I don’t think they all need to be role models, but is it too much to ask that they be aware that the next generation of athletes is watch all that they do? The cycle is already in motion.
There are 5 times more players out there today who would rather hangout with Jay Z or start a clothing line than play the game the right way and win championships. That is a sad fact.
As young players we can look to Derek Jeter as how to do it right. And as parents and coaches we can look to DJ’s folks. They really have shown that it is possible to raise a kid to be a well-rounded person on and off the field.
I will miss Derek Jeter. I will always tell stories of what he was like to the younger generation the way I heard about Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams.
So as we tip our caps to our Captain let’s also tip them to the Jeter family. They gave the Yankees one hell of a young man, leader and champion…in all walks of life.
** One more time for The Captain and his family… **
Senior "Features" Writer
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