On Thursday, September 25th 2014, Derek Jeter will play his final game at Yankee Stadium as shortstop for the New York Yankees. As of the time this article is being written the cheapest seats available are going for three hundred dollars. Those seats are in Section 239. For those that don't know the layout of the new Yankee Stadium, that section is in the left field bleachers right next to the monstrosity that is Mohegan Sun Sports Zone. Seats in this section of the stadium normally go for anywhere between five to twenty dollars, due to the Sports Zone's wall which blocks visibility of right field. This debacle of a design is one of many reasons why I don't like calling Yankee Stadium III "The House that Jeter Built." Between the Mohegan Sun Sports Zone and the dungeon that is Monument Park, it wasn't built all that well. Sometime next year, Derek Jeter's number and plaque will reside in said dungeon, with the giant Steinbrenner Face out there looking over it awkwardly. After the past three days of attending this final homestand between the Yankees and the Orioles, it really made me nostalgic for Yankee Stadium II. That was the House that Jeter built. Or rather, that was the house that Jeter filled.
What I remember most about the old stadium was the sound of the crowd during the dynasty era. It was unmistakable and it was loud. It was powerful and it was a pleasure to be apart of. You could hear it so clearly during the 1996 World Series that NBC had to try and mute out some 57,000 Yankee fans chanting their mock tomahawk chop "F$%K THE BRAVES" chant in perfect unison. It is such a stark contrast to what we see at the new Yankee Stadium nowadays, except for this final homestand. When Derek Jeter comes to the plate, the entire crowd rises from their seats and chants his name loudly. It is an emotional reminder of what once was, as well as a harsh reminder of what comes next. After Thursday, we will not see Derek Jeter take the field anymore in Yankee Stadium. The next time you see him will be for the Monument Park ceremony and after that... Old Timers Day.
Let that thought sink in for a moment. Derek Jeter playing in an Old Timers Day game.
What comes next is a Yankees team that has someone other than Derek Jeter playing shortstop. If you read the comments in this article by Andrew, a lot have fans have never seen a Yankees team with someone other than Jeter playing shortstop. I've been a fan since the mid 80's and it's hard for me to remember who played shortstop for the Yankees before Derek Jeter. That's the kind of impact he had. It wasn't just the offense, nor the magical Jeter moments that always pop up on any "Top 10 Jeter moments" list. It was the entire package. The man, the myth, the legend, and the rings. This has been an overall brutal season for the Yankees, but as a fan it is hard not to get swept up by all of this.
During this retirement tour, we've heard all about what Derek Jeter has meant to the game of baseball during his heralded career. The gifts have been presented. The commercials have been watched. The tour has been analyzed from just about every single angle and narrative. We've heard about it from those that love the tour to those that are sick of it. There will be more discussions about it afterwards, when the Yankees 2014 season comes to an end very shortly. Derek Jeter's performance this year will be judged accordingly, as will the notion of having a 40 year old shortstop a year removed from baseball bat 2nd in the lineup and play as much as he did. The talks will continue, but let's focus on the here and now. Let's focus on this final homestand.
As was mentioned earlier in this article, attending this final homestand these past three days has really made me nostalgic for Yankee Stadium II. That was my baseball home for the majority of my life. That is where I grew up watching my favorite players, players like Don Mattingly and Bernie Williams, play for my favorite team. I always took the 4 Train to the game so I could press my face against the window to see Yankee Stadium, my stadium, as the train came out of the tunnel. Now whenever the 4 Train comes out of that tunnel, all that's there is a field of grass where my old home use to be. Walking past that blank field of grass to get to Yankee Stadium III, you can see the big bat in the distance. It was always the best place to meet up with people before heading inside. Now it just serves as a memory of what once was.
That's what Derek Jeter represents to me personally. He was never my favorite Yankee growing up. Bernie Williams was. Bernie Williams was the Yankee who heralded the rise of the dynasty for me, much more than the "core four" ever did. Derek Jeter, to me, represents the big bat in the distance. He serves as a memory of what once was in Yankee Stadium II. The incredible run that saw the Yankees win four World Series Championships in five years. The roar of the crowd and the thunder of the cheers. It was the first time I saw my stadium, my baseball home, filled to the absolute brim with fans who seemed as passionate as I was about the Yankees, frontrunners or not. Derek Jeter represents a much better time in the Yankees' history. He represents a time I will never forget and will always appreciate until the day I die. A lot of people have commented on how this retirement tour made them feel over the year. Uncomfortable, nostalgic, grateful, and so on. My final thought on Derek Jeter's retirement tour is this:
Every fan base deserves to see a Derek Jeter retirement tour because every fan base deserves a Derek Jeter.
That may sound like some supreme arrogant Yankee fan talk, but it comes from someone who is a baseball fan. Derek Jeter is a very unique player in that he came up his rookie season and the team he played for went on to have one of its most successful tenures ever. That's what seeing Derek Jeter in pinstripes represents to a lot of people, and now Yankee fans are saying goodbye to that tenure. Jeter is the last bastion of that incredible era, an era that might not be repeated for a long time. Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Pirates clinched their 2nd playoff birth in a row. Hearing the crowd at PNC Park reminds me of Yankee Stadium II during our incredible run. Andrew McCutchen can hopefully be Pittsburgh's Derek Jeter. Not in terms of Jeter the player, but primarily what that player represents in the future to Pirate fans growing up in PNC Park. I hope that McCutchen continues to have an incredible career and stays in Pittsburgh until he retires.
I hope Pirate fans experience with Andrew McCutchen what Yankee fans experienced with Derek Jeter. I hope every fan base can have someone of that magnitude on their team. A superstar they can see play their entire career wearing one uniform. A superstar they grow up with and see championships with, because you never forget those moments. You never forget the first World Series you see your team win. You never forget the cheers, the roar of the crowd, and the atmosphere of your stadium during that time. You never forget the players and superstars that helped bring that championship home. Every fan base deserves to see that. Every fan base deserves a Derek Jeter.
Tomorrow, Yankee fans say their final farewell to the last player of that era. We say goodbye to the last player who played during one of the best times to be a Yankee fan. For me, I say goodbye to the last player who represents growing up in Yankee Stadium II. I do not know if I'll see or hear anything like I did in the first stadium I called home ever again. The atmosphere has changed. The roar is now rare. My old home has been torn down and replaced with what you see now. However, during this final homestand of 2014, when Derek Jeter came up to bat, I was reminded of what once was. I was reminded of my first baseball home. Everyone standing. Everyone cheering. Yankee Stadium II was where the best memories of Derek Jeter come from. That was the house that Jeter filled.
Next year, someone else will have to fill this new home of ours. It will hopefully be a team effort, just like it was back during the dynasty era. However, that someone will most likely be Derek Jeter when they announce the date of his number retirement ceremony.