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Derek Jeter’s magic helped me become a passionate fan of baseball

The Captain’s play on the field and his attitude off it helped this young Yankees fan love the sport even more.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to all sports, players can make a sizable impact on a fan’s enjoyment of the game. For me, my Yankees and baseball fandom increased with Derek Jeter.

The New York Yankees have always been my favorite team, with memories being made with my grandfather, which I wrote about here earlier in January. But I never really fell in love with the game of baseball until I started watching Jeter in-depth. His highlight tapes on YouTube were things that kept me from schoolwork. Watching him play in the All-Star Games as a kid had me entranced. There was nothing I wouldn’t do to take time out of my day and watch even just a little bit of his magic.

When I was a kid, I played little league baseball. I remember walking on the pathway through the baseball diamond complex and seeing a white team with pinstripes on the uniforms. They were older kids than I was, but they were the Yankees, and even though I dreamed of playing for the Yankees one day at the MLB level, my first goal was to play for that team and play shortstop. Unfortunately, the dream never came to fruition.

However, I did continue to play shortstop through my little league career, and I vividly remember going to a baseball camp hosted by some former MLB and college players and doing a fielding drill. I made a jump throw like the one Jeter is so famous for, and there was a “looks like Derek Jeter out there” comment from one of the coaches, which was something that has stuck with me through my young life. I tried to play like him every time I went on the field.

A kid from Nashville, Tennessee, trying to model his game after one of the best and most revolutionary shortstops that played hours and hours away is not incredibly common. Everyone knew who he was, but where I’m from consists mostly of Atlanta Braves fans, so the Yankees weren’t the most popular team around. But I wouldn’t let that stop me from trying to recreate all of his moves on the diamond.

The way that Jeter played the game opened a ton of eyes across the nation and the world, but from personal experience, it helped to show me the kind of game baseball can be. There are plenty of stereotypes about our nation’s pastime being boring and slow. However, when DJ took the field, there would be magic more often than not.

With the recent making of the docuseries “The Captain” on ESPN and ESPN+, my passion for the sport was only revitalized, and it helped me realize how much of an effect Jeter’s mindset and his performance on the field had on me as a person and as a baseball player. And even though I didn’t play at a very high level, I did put in plenty of work to make myself be as much like him as possible.

I have pictures of Jeter on my wall. I have his baseball card on a plaque on my bookshelf. I religiously read the books he wrote when I was a kid. I even got a panoramic picture of his final hit on my wall (signed by the man himself) as a Christmas present from my uncle. The number of memories he gave me as a young kid and how much he transformed my life is something I can’t understate. He not only helped me get better at the sport of baseball, but he also ignited my passion for the sport of baseball in general. It truly is a beautiful game, and Jeter’s hustle and sacrifice for the Yankees helped cement that in my mind.