When the folks here in Pinstripe Alley prompted the community to send in their fondest memory of The Captain, it was an easy answer for this fan. I can remember it like it was just yesterday, really.
It was 2001. I was in the middle of the semester break of my freshman high school year at a Private Catholic School in the Philippines. In a country where basketball is the undisputed king, baseball had limited coverage back then. Fortunately that year, I found out that a UHF free-to-air channel, Studio 23, was broadcasting the Major League Baseball Postseason, to my delight, of course.
At school, we played "backyard baseball," and by that I mean having only one wooden bat, a ball, a glove for the catcher, and the backyard. You know, just those teenager stuff where you make do of what you have. The game was over under these conditions:
-it was 1:00PM (end of lunch break)
-ball went over the roof (as we would like to call, the cheap home run, even if it was basically foul territory. LOL)
But this was the real back-breaker. The game, and our playing days were done once that solo wooden bat of ours inevitably broke (I can still remember who owned this bat).
So that was the end of our "playing days" and all I had left was, as what it's like to oh so many of us, live vicariously through our sports heroes.
By this time, of course, as everybody knows, is the latest incarnation of a Yankee Dynasty; a team going for their fourth straight World Series win, and their fifth in a six year span. As good as this squad is, I have yet to single out which player in particular would be my favorite. That was about to change on November 1, 2001.
It was just past 1:00PM in the Philippines, and me and my family were just about finishing our lunch as we prepared to go to the cemetery to commemorate All Saints Day (it's a Filipino custom to visit the departed ones on this day). The television set was locked in to Studio 23 for Game 4 of the World Series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees at the Big Ballpark in the Bronx. A few moments earlier, Tino Martinez sent the first pitch he saw from Byung-Hyun Kim to the bleachers at center field tied the game at 3-3.
The Yankee Stadium bell tolled as the clock struck midnight. We were welcomed to November Baseball and stepping up to the plate was the shortstop, Derek Jeter. After a nine pitch at-bat, number 2 homers to right, en route to a 4-3 win.
I remember exclaiming, "Yeah! Home run!" as I pumped both of my fists into the air, celebrating with the Yankee faithful who were going nuts with the dramatic win. While I was digesting what just happened for the day, I think this was also the moment when I said to myself, "yep, this is my guy," meaning Mr. Jeter was going to be my favorite Yankee.
In the years preceding this at-bat, I was always amazed at how he handles playing in New York with calm and control. So much can be said about his game; among them are his consistency, winning attitude, how he handled himself on and off the field, and the leadership he displayed.
"I want to be just like him," my 12-year old self said. There was no turning back with this decision now. As someone nearing your teenage years, you already have a sense of what's going on with your environment. So the moment you commit yourself to a player and/or team, in my opinion, that's yours to own for the rest of your life.
Fast forward to 2017, I still say those seven words.
#RE2PECT to The Captain has not changed at all.