Earlier this week Newsday added that this week begins “what can only be called Derek Jeter Week in Major League Baseball.”
It is an end of an era when the captain of the New York Yankees’ illustrious career comes to an end. He will be stepping up to the plate one last time at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night and his very last at-bat will be on Sunday in Boston. Regardless to the controversial and snide comments reported by ESPN‘s host Keith Olbermann, it will be almost impossible to stop Jeter embracing his 20-year career.
What a career he has had! His taken home 5 rings, a 14 time All-Star, 5 Silver Sluggers, 5 Golden Gloves, countless records broken at the Yankees (including most hits, most at bats, most stolen bases and most games played), sixth on the all-time hit list and countless amounts of other awards. In my books, he may not be the greatest player to ever play the sport, or even for the Yankees. But he is still one of the greatest shortstops to ever play the game! Alongside the names of Cal Ripken Jr and Honus Wagner.
Pinstripes Alley quotes “He had an almost Hollywood-esque flair for the dramatic: the Jeffrey Maier home run, the lead-off home run in the 2000 World Series, the Mr. November home run, the flip play, diving into the stands in 2004, and hitting a home run as his 3000th hit”. Jeter was truly a triple threat to America’s favorite past time. Sure, he had the skill set (bat, run and field), but, he was also a phenomenal ambassador for the game and his work outside of baseball made him a personality which made him admirable to fans around the world.
Arguably he was one of the best personalities the game has seen in decades. As longtime Yankees broadcaster, Suzyn Waldman explains in an interview with Newsday, “Everybody had great moments. It’s just who in this world, in this day and age, can play in this market for 20 years and never do a wrong thing, never say a wrong thing, never be in the wrong place, always is there with the fans?” “There’s got to be a reason more than he’s a great player that every shortstop in the world has No. 2 on the back of his uniform. There’s something else besides being a great player or the world would say, ‘That’s nice.” A true testament to Jeter for displaying to the world that professional sports is much more than the numbers he posted on the field, but it’s about the synergy of both on and off the field that makes you a great – a player that will become a legend.
But there has been speculations of this final season for the Yankees captain been too over the top. Many people have questioned if “his worth all of this?” and “What is all the hype about?” In retrospect, great players of the past haven’t received a reception of this magnitude. No one really has. The countless amounts of gifts and donations which every club have given him are rather overwhelming. It’s rather extraordinary.
Truth be told, he is worth it. Well, I most certainly think so. Especially to those who were born in this generation. For those who idolized many players who were bound to be a hall famer only to turn out to be inconspicuous about their performance-enhancing secrets. Those players who were in the limelight for illegitimate reasons. The likes of Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Roger Clemens, A-Rod, Sammy Sosa and the list goes on.
Unlike them Jeter persevered. He showed the world that hard work can achieve dreams and this warrants respect. Before entering the majors, playing for a minor league A-side he had his career worst figures in fielding. He conceded 56 errors and his percentage fell below .900. For a short stop with a dream to play in the majors you were expected upwards of .950 and above. He knew what was expected. But since then he had never looked back. He practiced and corrected where adjustments had to be made, resulting in an outstanding average of 0.9749 for his 20-year career.
No one knew how big he could be. How great he would be. Whether or not if he could be the next Ripen Jr or the Wagner. Who would have knew that there would be a day specifically commemorated in his honor?
No one could have foreseen it. For all money, he could have bombed in his first season (like many others) and we might not have seen him ever again. And who knows how much this could have affected modern day baseball. I personally can not start to comprehend.
But, love him or hate him. He has always been a very humble and modest player. Something that is often missing in this day and age. He didn’t take anything for granted. He took every game, every at bat and every pitch like it was his last, and this truly reflects the speech he made on Derek Jeter Day in front of a packed house.
“In my opinion, I’ve had the greatest job in the world. I got a chance to be the shortstop for the New York Yankees, and there’s only one of those. And I always felt as though it was my job, was to try to provide joy and entertainment for you guys, but it can’t compare to what you brought me. So for that, thank you very much. I’ve loved what I’ve done. I love what I do. More importantly, I’ve loved doing it for you. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you very much.”
I can honestly say that the reception that followed was a spectacle by itself. The out pour could be seen from all four corners of the world and it was something that was emotional. Reality was setting in, an end of an era was nearing. 20 years have flown past and the time has come to say goodbye to a legend.
Although Derek Jeter wears the #2, he is #1 in many of the New York fans minds, and that will never be forgotten.