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Derek Jeter: 3000 Hits and Counting

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As you all certainly know, anticipation for Derek Jeter's 3000th hit has been mounting ever since spring training back in February. Through below-average play and injuries, he'd grinded out hit after hit to bring himself to 2998.

On July 9, 2011, Derek Sanderson Jeter had himself the definition of a career day. Following a first inning single, Bob Sheppard's echoing voice welcomed Derek to the plate as fans rocked the grandstand. Jeter roped his first home run at Yankee Stadium this season into section 236 for career hit number 3000. He'd only go on to slap a double and two singles, one of which gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead in the eighth inning, to complete a five for five afternoon. I'd bet George Steinbrenner was looking on proudly from way up above. 

On the big screen at Yankee Stadium, there were flashbacks to Derek Jeter on May 30, 1995 in the Kingdome taking a pitch from Tim Blecher and grounding it through the hole between third and shortstop. That was his first career hit and only the second game he'd played for New York. That hit was barely an indication of what was to come from Jeter over the course of the next seventeen seasons. From that very moment, the eventual Captain would grow into one of the best players to don the pinstripes. 

If I were asked to narrow down Jeter's biggest moment of his career, I wouldn't even know where to begin. Jeffrey Maier home run in the 1996 ALCS? "The flip" against Oakland in the 2001 ALDS to arguably preserve a run to Game 7 of the World Series? Walk-off home run in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series? Flying into the stands on July 1, 2004 against Boston in one of the classic regular season games in recent memory? Passing Gehrig on September 11, 2009 as the all-time Yankee hit leader? These are just a few of his remarkable plays that come to mind first. The debate could rage on forever. 

For a man that has helped a team win five world championships, won countless awards, and received copious amounts of praise for the way he plays baseball and handles himself at all times, Derek Jeter continues to surprise us all. 

I haven't been a Yankee fan for a tremendously long time. In fact, 2000 was the first season that I was old enough to begin to understand the game of baseball. But I know that later on in my life when I'm sharing my passion with my kids and their kids, I'll be able to tell them that my childhood teams were captained by the legendary Derek Jeter and that I was fortunate enough to grow up watching a truly extraordinary leader and baseball player. 

While Jeter has cemented his legacy in Yankee history with guys like Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Mantle, Berra etc., the ride isn't over yet. Questions will surround his ability to play shortstop and whether or not he can continue to produce at a consistently high level. His current contract will likely be ridiculed over the next three years and things could become ugly.

But for now, I'd like to take a moment to say congratulations to my childhood idol on collecting hit #3000. In the brightest spotlight and the most grueling environment in all of sports, Derek Jeter has thrived... rising to the occasion time and time again. I'm so glad I was in attendance to witness it. 

I'll probably brag to my kids about that, too.