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Oh Captain! My Captain!

A love letter to Derek Jeter.

Derek+Jeter%2C+former+Captain+of+the+NY+Yankees+had+his+number%2C+2%2C+retired+this+past+Sunday.
Derek Jeter, former Captain of the NY Yankees had his number, 2, retired this past Sunday.

Derek Jeter, former Captain of the NY Yankees had his number, 2, retired this past Sunday.

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons

Derek Jeter, former Captain of the NY Yankees had his number, 2, retired this past Sunday.

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42 years ago in Pequannock, New Jersey, a true and humble legend was born. Derek Jeter is one of the most, if not — THE most, respected baseball player in all of major league baseball history. Derek found his love and passion for baseball as a kid and continued to pursue it up until he was drafted as a teenager. In high school Derek won several national sports awards, including being named the American High School Coaches Association’s 1992 “High School Player of the Year”, the 1992 “Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year”, and USA Today’s “High School Player of the Year”. After his tremendous success, the Yankees drafted Jeter as the sixth overall pick in 1992 directly out of high school to play and be a part of the Yankees’ farm system in Cleveland. He gave up the opportunity to play for Michigan State on a full scholarship to pursue his dream of playing baseball for the New York Yankees. He had an exceptional few years playing shortstop in the minors and in 1994, with a .334 batting average and 50 stolen bases, he was selected as “Minor League Player of the Year”. In 1995 he was brought up to the big leagues to play starting shortstop for the New York Yankees. His first major league game was May 29th, 1995 and went 0-for-5 that day, but that did not determine the greatness that was yet to come.

Jeter’s career was one like no other. He won 5 Golden Glove awards, 5 Silver Slugger awards in the American League, and in 2000, he became the first player to be named the All-Star Game and World Series MVP in the same season. Derek Jeter had one unbelievable career and quickly became a role model to many young people and players and even an inspiration to veteran players. He had a career like no other and will always be remembered.

On May 14, 2017 the New York Yankees officially retired Derek Jeter’s number. The number 2 will sit alongside the greatest of Yankees to have ever played the game. He was a special player, and that day was just as special as he is. The day before on May 13th the game at Yankee Stadium was postponed due to the poor weather conditions; however, what better way to honor number 2 then with two back-to-back games on the same day, one before the ceremony, and one after. Before each game begins the fans do a “role call” which is when we say each players name one by one going from the outfield to the infield. Some times, this day included, the fans will call Derek Jeter even though he’s not there. They don’t do that for any other player except for him. It just shows how much he meant to the fans and all of baseball. His legacy still lives on in the field.

The number 2 will sit alongside the greatest of Yankees to have ever played the game.”

I had the privilege of being able to be a part of and witnessing the official retirement of a number that belonged to a legend. It was a special day for him of course; but, it was also a very bittersweet special day for me as well. As a kid, I grew up watching Jeter play and he is someone who I look up to, as did many other kids. When you entered the stadium you could feel the excitement for not just the games, but knowing that we would be there for history. To be a part of that day did not come cheap, but it meant something for every person there; he meant something to them in some way, shape, or form. Once the first game finished it was time for the ceremony and excitement was there but there honestly isn’t really one word to describe the feeling in that moment in the stadium. It was definitely unbelievable and absolutely unforgettable! As they were setting up the field for the ceremony you see and feel all the energy. Everyone’s attention was directed over to Monument Park in center field. It was a little hard to see him and his family up close but we were able to see everything on the jumbotron. Derek was there with his whole family to unveil his number in Monument Park next to all the legends that come before him and was also able to see his number next to his “core four” teammates. That itself was a very emotional moment for him, his family, his teammates, and for all of his fans that have watched him grow up, but that was just the beginning. After the unveiling they turned our attention back to the infield where the rest of the ceremony was about to take place.

Michael Kay and John Sterling announced some of Jeter’s closest friends, family, and people that had played an important role in his successful career to join him on the field. The time had finally come to unveil his very own plaque. Seeing the emotion on someone’s face that always kept his emotions in check was something I will never forget. It was an amazing experience to be a part of and to top it off it was followed by his speech and it was truly an unforgettable one. Derek was never a guy who liked to talk about himself. He was very humble; his speech on “his” day, in typical Jeter style, did not start with things about himself, instead he started off by saying Happy Mother’s Day. He didn’t have to, but he did because that’s just who he is. For his speech Jeter did not use cue cards or notes to help him, he said what he felt and spoke from the heart. He thanked his family, teammates, and supporters for always being there for him, Of course he thanked the fans; but the way he thanked us, what he said, touched every single person in that stadium individually even though it was for every Yankee fan. He did this by saying “I want to thank you guys for pushing me, for challenging me, for making me accountable, but most importantly for embracing me since day one”.

It was amazing feeling to be there and hearing his words in person and not a TV screen. Derek then brought up a question he was asked recently that asked if he could trade places with one person who would it be? Now, pretty much everyone could say that there is at least one person that they would consider trading places with; but like the things he’s done, he said the unexpected. He responded, “I say this very humbly but there isn’t a person or player that I would trade places with that’s playing now or ever. And the reason that I say that is because I got the chance to play for a first class organization and in front of the greatest fans in the history of sports.” Every fan in that stadium was on their feet cheering for the man that brought such greatness, leadership, and memories to our team. Throughout his whole speech, each time there was a pause all we could do was cheer. It was truly an honor to be there for the retiring of a number belonging to a legend. It was a day that will not only be remembered by Derek Jeter and his family, but to everyone, especially me. It was a very bittersweet day, but an amazing one at that.

Derek Jeter was a man like no other and it was a true honor to have witnessed a legend and been able to have such an incredible role model to look up to and strive to be. He wasn’t just a great player on the field he was also an unbelievable person off of it. A lot of big time players like to do charity work for publicity, but not Derek, he did it out of the goodness of his heart and his passion to help others. He even went on to create his own charity called the Turn 2 Foundation which was established to help children and teenagers avoid drug and alcohol addiction, and to reward those who show high academic achievement and adopt healthier lifestyles.

The Captain is such an amazing person and player and the day he retired was the end of an era. It was right to have his number retired just as the many greats that came before him did. I will always remember the experience of being able to actually be there for the ceremony and I will never forget it. His career and the type of person that he was will always be remembered for his greatest achievements and unbelievable moments that are indigenous to him. “Captain Clutch”, “Mr. November” and “El Capitán” will always be a part of baseball’s history books. Derek Sanderson Jeter is, and always will be, a legend.

 

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1 Comment

One Response to “Oh Captain! My Captain!”

  1. Nolan Crean on May 17th, 2017 4:24 pm

    Derek Jeter is a big part of Yankees history and being able to have watched him play is an honor

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Oh Captain! My Captain!