I'm sure there are many of these posts to come, both here at PSA and around the web, but I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on the career of Derek Jeter. I had to say something about the man who has been my favorite player over the course of my whole life.
I was born in 1991, and at the age of five or six, I started paying attention to baseball. It had always been on in my house - my dad has long loved the sport - but it took me a while to properly appreciate it. Once I started playing baseball, though, I started watching.
Unfortunately, I always seemed to be watching Braves games. And frankly, I was a Braves fan for about a day. I'm from the south (North Carolina), and with no team in my state, everyone always seems to gravitate towards the Braves. I went to school one day (apparently this was the day I decided I was a baseball fan) and talked to other kids about it. They all told me the Braves were the best team in the history of the universe. I repeated this to my dad that night. He corrected me. He told me, as we watched them on TV, that the New York Yankees were the greatest baseball team. Ever.
My grandfather had taken my father to Yankee Stadium in the 1950s and converted him to the New York state of mind. My father did the same with me during the early 2000s (I saw Roger Clemens' first game as a Yankee as a matter of fact). Even before that though (again, sometime in first grade), I had seen the light - I was a Yankee fan.
As someone who played shortstop in little league and started watching the Yankees in the mid-to-late nineties, it was only natural for Derek Jeter to become my favorite player. Just as I was growing into the passionate Yankee fan I've become, Jeter was becoming the face of the franchise, winning championships and World Series MVP awards, making flip-plays and crushing extra-inning home runs. He was the best player on the best team on the planet. He was the Captain. He was the quiet, unassuming superstar. He was classy, gracious, and great. He was the Yankees.
Every morning, reading the box scores in the paper on the way to school, the first name I'd look for in the Yankee lineup was Jeter.
I frankly cannot imagine the Yankees without Derek Jeter. He's given me so many amazing memories over the years. The titles, the jump-throws from deep in the hole, the homer for his 30,00th hit... even last year, when he barely played, the stories surrounding the team were dominated with when/if Jeter would return. He was still so central to the team's narrative.
Perhaps what it really boils down to is the fact that, for someone who's never watched a Yankee team without Derek Jeter (not counting last year), he is the Yankees. Sure, there were other great players (Core Four, Bernie Williams, etc.) but for me, they were all complementary parts to the man, the myth, the legend, Mr. November. Seeing him leave is almost like seeing my favorite team retire, not just my favorite player. Future Yankees teams will be a different breed, that's for sure.
Derek Jeter has always been my favorite player, and I imagine it will stay that way, at least for a long time. I know this post is full of somewhat generic/cliché reactions to Jeter announcing he'll retire, but still, I wanted to share. Writing is cathartic, and it's nice to talk about a player that I couldn't write much about last year. Frankly, it's going to be hard not having Jeter as a Yankee, but, hey, he's 40, so it's about time for him to be moving on. Still, it's going to be rough watching him hang it up. Harder than watching Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada go, at least for me. Even harder than watching Mo go.
Thanks for the memories, Derek. You made a lifelong Yankee fan out of me. Now can we just get a World Series title to send the Captain off right?