Derek Jeter – A Ballplayer & A Gentleman
Following an open letter on his Facebook page February 12th, Derek Jeter announced that he would head to Tampa for Spring Training for his 20th and final season with the New York Yankees. Gone are the days of Major League Baseball players lasting 15-plus seasons, and more rare, with the same team.It comes after Jeter's worst season in his career, playing in just 17 games and batting .190 while still recovering from a broken ankle suffered during the 2012 postseason. Along with other injuries that he suffered, including a pulled quad and hamstring, he even said himself that baseball became more of a job than fun. The soon-to-be 40-year-old will go out on top, no matter where the Yankees finish this upcoming season.
I am lucky to have had the opportunity to take the field with Derek, but as a competitor. It was the summer of 1992, as he concluded his junior year at Kalamazoo Central and I was just wrapping up my freshman year at Gull Lake. At that time, I was more into heading to the diamond and playing one of the many sports I love. I would not know who Jeter was until he was drafted the following year, and begin the fast track to his career playing hardball. That was when I really started to follow the sport, and delve into Minor League Baseball.
He was well on his way to making it to the Majors, and he was one of three shortstops that were the talk of the sport in 1995. The others were Nomar Garciaparra (who had one great decade in Boston) and Alex Rodriguez (don't get me started).
Jeter was the consummate professional - playing hard while showing that he enjoyed the game, sacrificing his body and his wallet to make the Yankees champions five times, and becoming the captain and face of the franchise and the Big Apple. He never forgot where he came from, giving back to Southwest Michigan with his Turn 2 Foundation and other charities. In some ways, he gave new life to baseball in this area.
I will be honest. I absolutely despised the Yankees and still do to some capacity, but I have and always will have respect for Derek and what he has done over the past two decades. It almost seems fitting that a year after another Yankee gentleman, Mariano Rivera, called it career, Jeter will make his final tour around the Majors. I would not be surprised that when he receives gifts from other teams in the MLB, he'd give them back.
Thank you, Derek, for what you have done for baseball and being a true professional, in every sense of the word.
I would love to go on and on about memories of Jeter's accomplishments, but I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment and even a memory, if you'd like.