LADY AT THE BAT: Before A Year-Long Send-Off, A Tribute To Derek Jeter

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Before A Year-Long Send-Off, A Tribute To Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter
Say it ain't so Captain.

On Tuesday, Derek Jeter announced that the 2014 baseball season will be his final one as a professional baseball player. This day was coming. Nobody can play forever after all, but that didn’t make the news any easier to take.

Baseball players come and baseball players go. That’s the reality of the sport. Know this though: There will never be another Derek Jeter. That combination of talent, heart, sportsmanship, longevity and dedication is a rare thing and baseball fans have been fortunate enough to witness it in one player for the better part of the last 19 years.

Just listing his accomplishments, as remarkable as they are, doesn’t begin to do him justice: 1996 Rookie of the Year, 2000 World Series MVP, 2000 All-Star Game MVP, five time world champion, lifetime BA above .300, 3,300+ hits. Those are just awards, just numbers.

It’s the visuals they provide that tell us the story of Derek Jeter:
  • The flip play to Jorge Posada in the 2001 ALDS. His fist in the air as he rounded the bases for a game tying HR on November 1, 2001. 
  • His bloody face as he emerged from the stands he dove into, head-first, on July 1, 2004, to get a crucial out. 
  • The picture of him tipping his cap to the fans on September 21, 2008 for the last game in the old Yankee Stadium. 
  • The HR swing on July 9, 2011 that sent hit number 3,000 soaring out of Yankee Stadium as part of a 5-for-5 day. 
All of that, and more, give all Yankee fans chills when we think of them. Great plays, great moments, by a great player.

The one thing about Derek Jeter, however, that Yankee fans appreciated above all else: he wanted to win. You could see it in his sprints to first base, hear it in his post-game interviews, and see the triumph as he hoisted the trophy five times in his career. Just like the fans, maybe even more so than us, he wanted to win. And oftentimes he did.

Of course, there were times he failed; baseball players only succeed 7 out of 10 times after all. There were games when he was the final out when the team really could have used a win.

The truth is, however, that Derek Jeter was there when we needed him. With his patented inside out swing slashing a single into right field. With his jump throw from short left field to get the out at first. Always being the first one out of the dugout running to his position to start a home game. Giving us the moments that we’ll tell future generations about when they ask us about our favorite plays by our favorite players. He was there. 

With grace, with dignity, with unfailing respect for the Yankee pinstripes, Derek Jeter was there.

After the 2014 season, however, he won’t be there. There will be someone else at shortstop and not just because he’s taking a day game after a night game off but because, after a remarkable career, Derek Jeter has decided he’s done. He’s earned that right. If anyone deserves to go out on his own terms, it’s Derek Jeter. 

It doesn’t make it any easier for us fans, for his team or for this city. We will miss him. I will miss him. 

Truth be told, I don’t know what baseball is without Derek Jeter. Sure, there have been games, months and even last year when it was essentially the entire season, that Jeter wasn’t actively playing. Those were difficult enough. But I knew, I always knew, that he was coming back. My favorite player was coming back. Not this time, however. This time, when he walks off that field for the last time in 2014, it’s over. 

So enjoy it Yankee fans. Let’s let Derek Jeter know, every chance we get, that we appreciate everything about him, everything he gave to us over the past 19 years.

Thank you, Derek Jeter, for everything you’ve done. And here’s hoping the Yankees can send you out in style with #28. Let’s go Yankees!

No comments: