The Captain, “Number 2” Derek Jeter announced last week that the 2014 will be his final season playing baseball for the New York Yankees.
You know all the accolades by now: his career batting average over .300, 13-time All-Star and over 3,300 career hits are accomplishments that will land him in the Hall of Fame one day.
As a long-suffering Mets fan, I have more respect for Jeter than any other Yankee. His ability to seemingly fly under the radar over 18 seasons in the big leagues while being able to represent leadership and everything good about the game is unbelievable.
Michael Kay broadcasts Yankees games on the YES Network and recently summed up Jeter’s personality in a few words.
“If you knock on his door, he’s the kind of guy who will talk to you for hours through the screen door, but he won’t let you in the house,” Kay says.
Jeter is a private guy, he always has been, but he’s done nothing but the right things for the past 18 years.
“Jeter is a textbook on how to play the game the right way,” says Julian Atienza, FCRH ’14 and lifelong Mets fan. “He is a player who embodies what it means to be the face of a New York sports franchise.”
The New York media is often seen as a group that loves to bring out the worst in athletes. If you’re an athlete playing for a New York team, every move you make is scrutinized. Jeter is just like any other player in that regard, but he hasn’t made any mistakes since being called up from the minors in 1996.
Few can think of one time over the past 18 years when Jeter was a subject of real and warranted scrutiny in the media.
Sure, one can point to December 2002, when the Yankees’ boss George Stenbrenner criticized Jeter for staying out at a club until 3 a.m. But, that was just an example of Steinbrenner pulling his usual shenanigans as the Yankees’ owner.
“It’s pretty rare to see such a high profile star athlete literally have no bad publicity of a 20-year career,” says Nolan Silbernagel, FCRH ’14 and avid Yankee fan.
Over the past two seasons, I covered the Yankees for WFUV Sports. Jeter rarely spoke to the media after games, but when he did, it mattered. He was all business.
“He never held back on what had to be said,” says Rich Mancuso, who’s covered the Bronx Bombers for the past 10 years for the Bronx News. “Good game or bad game, Jeter was a good guy to the media and one we looked forward to getting a quote or two from.”
The numbers may speak for themselves, but Jeter’s career is defined by much more than stats. His leadership, demeanor and no-nonsense attitude are what people will most remember about him.
“When you think of Jeter, you just think of a no-excuse, hustle every play kind of guy who was also respectful to his competitors,” said Silbernagel.
All that privacy over nearly two decades left many surprised when Jeter decided to announce his retirement over Facebook before the season started. This is just the Yankees being the Yankees. Attendance and TV ratings were way down last year. Now that fans know this will be Jeter’s last hoorah, they’re more likely to buy tickets and watch the games.
One story perfectly personifies Jeter. After a game at Yankee Stadium during the 2012 American League Division Series, hundreds of media members surrounded Jeter’s locker. About a quarter of the way through Jeter’s press conference, one could hear the faint sound of a reporter shouting “Derek!” from the back of the crowd.
Jeter perked his head up comfortably, as if he was having a conversation with a family member. He comically replied “Yes?” and proceeded to answer the question.