There was a time when no one knew the name Derek Jeter. He was a tall, scrawny high schooler from Kalamazoo, Michigan who loved sports, Miriah Carey and most of all, Baseball.
He started out like every single one of us. That’s what made his story, career and journey so iconic and memorable.
From the first day he picked up a baseball bat and glove, he always said he wanted to play shortstop for the New York Yankees one day. A dream job for millions of kids around the world then and now.
The only difference: He made it happen, and then a little bit more.
To put things into perspective of the longevity of Jeter’s career, here are some things that happened since he was drafted (miraculously) 6th overall by the New York Yankees in the 1992 MLB Draft:
-Michael Jordan had just won his second title of six.
– Bill Clinton was elected to his first term as President
– The hit show “Seinfeld” was only in its 3rd season
– A gallon of gas would cost you $1.13
Derek Jeter’s roots as a professional ballplayer started on dimly lit field in Greensboro, North Carolina for the Class A Greensboro Hornets. There he met guys that never made it to the show, but had a profound effect on Jeter’s ensuing career. He also met guys much like him, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera in which he would formulate a close bond with. You may have heard of them.
In Greensboro, Derek was not the star. Far from it. He was the 156-pound kid shortstop that had all the hype-in-the-world surrounding him, but had trouble adjusting to being professional. He made plenty of errors, struck-out time after time, and simply missed home. He continuously regretted forgoing a University of Michigan Scholarship in order to turn pro. But it never showed.
On the outside, Jeter stayed poised and collected. He kept his head down and spent hours on the field and in the batting cage. He had a promise to fulfill after all, he was going to be shortstop of the New York Yankees.
Since the turn of the century, and the continuos growth of sabermetrics in baseball, Derek Jeter would most likely be one of the last players you would think about when it comes to statistics. His memorable moments far overshadow his career stats.
If you were to judge Jeter’s career solely on stats, those are pretty damn good as well. Here are just a few:
- 6th all-time in hits with 3,450 plus (entering Sunday) is the most by any shortstop in the the history of the game. Most hits in a season came in ’99 with 219. Second most? Came 13 years later with 216.
- Career avg. of .309, 7x has he hit .320 or better in a season.
- His 1999 season is one of the best ever produced by a Shortstop, Career highs in virtually every category: .349 avg. 24 HR 102 RBI .989 OPS 134 runs,
- 342,000, as in the amount of times in Jeter’s career did he use that classic inside-out swing going to the opposite way (According to the New York Times) 845 of them were base-hits.
A few awards Jeter has claimed over the years:
- 1996 Rookie of the Year
- 14x All-Star
- World Series MVP in 2000
- All-time Yankees leader in: Hits, singles, doubles, At-bats, stolen bases, and games played in a Yankee uniform.
- Five Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers
Yet if you ask Jeter, he only cares about one single number: 5. As in the number of World Championships.
As mentioned before, Jeter will be one of the last guys to be more remember by the moments he shared than the numbers he put up. Yankees fan or not, every baseball fan has a memory of Jeter of the past 20 years that put you in a state of disbelief, it’s what he did best. Here are some of the most memorable ones:
5. Game 1, 1996 ALDS vs. Baltimore Orioles, dubbed “The Jeffrey Maier Homerun”
Asked if Jeter thought it should not have been ruled a homerun, Jeter replies, “He ( RF Tony Tarasco) should have jumped.”
4. July 1st, 2004 vs. Boston Red Sox. Jeter goes head first into the stands
The play embodied everything Jeter stood for, do what you can at whatever cost to win.
3. Mr. 3000
On a day where he would also go 5-5, #3000 was classic Captain.
2. “The Flip” 2001 ALDS, Game 3 vs. Oakland A’s
Something you’ll never see happen again. Incredible instinct, incredible play.
1. “Mr. November”
For a city and country who had just suffered the worst terrorist attacks in its history, Derek Jeter delivered a moment that many will never forget, mainly because it took their minds off of the horrific tragedy of 9/11 for just a moment.
Not to forget, his last at-bat at Yankee stadium. The only way Jeter knows how. Base hit to right-field for the game winning single.
As Derek Jeter takes his last cuts and tips his cap at one last time, it will mark the end one of the most incredible journeys for an athlete in our time. A skinny kid from Kalamazoo who had all the potential in the world, yet was doubted by so many on his way to putting on a Yankee uniform.
In the environment that is New York City that has picked apart some of the greatest athletes in all of sports, Jeter never wavered, he thrived in the constant pressure to win for twenty years. Fans across the country love Jeter because of his honesty, professionalism and not letting others affect the way he wants to live (That’s right Jete, date who you want)
Yet, for many kids like myself growing up in the late 90’s and 2000’s, Derek Jeter was a person you could look up to. Never once was his named mentioned in the steroid era, he was a likable and genuine person and maybe most of all, he played the game the right way.
Growing up playing baseball, I can recall the hundreds of Derek Jeter references, when it came to hustling on and off the field, to first base and around the bases and being a great teammate. His impact has spread far and wide, but is felt most in the Yankee organization and on the field.
So on behalf of all Yankee fans, baseball fans, sports fans and even fans of good people, Thanks Derek. Two decades worth of baseball and every game you gave fans who came to see you play everything you had. You influenced people on and off the field everyday, put a smile on kids faces who admired you and the way you played. You represented one of the greatest towns in the world and showed them the way through the toughest of times. You delivered in every clutch moment, led your team to five championships and did it with a smile on your face. And on your final at-bat in Yankee stadium, you gave the us one last time to remember why we will miss you so much.
And at the end of the day, you showed us that it was still just a game. You didn’t let baseball define you, you defined baseball.
You did it your way.
And when Jeter comes up for his final at-bat at Fenway Sunday, in front of thousands of fans who cursed at him over the years, we will all know how thankful we were to watch him play. Whether you loved him, hated him or were indifferent, you respect him.
Icons are celebrated more so in baseball than any other sport. One is leaving the game for good today.
But his legacy and impact on the game never will.
To that, we tip our cap to you Derek Jeter.