What Derek Jeter Means To Me

As I sit here on the couch, just minutes before the start of Derek Jeter’s last home game with the New York Yankees, I just started thinking what Derek Jeter means to me. That might sound weird to a lot of people but as a New Yorker, Yankees and baseball fan; Derek Jeter means something to each of us-whether you realize it or not. Here is what Derek Jeter mean to me.
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Derek Jeter means more than just baseball to me. He represents an era. An era in baseball yes; but more so an era in my life. As a kid who grew up dreaming about playing for the New York Yankees and worshipping baseball and its star players; Jeter represents the dreams of millions of kids and one of the main people I associate with the second half of my life-to this point.

Jeter is 4+ years older than me and he came up with the Yankees my senior year in high school. My freshman year in college, he won rookie of the year and led the Yankees to their first World Series title in my lifetime. He would do that 4 of his first 5 years in baseball and once again in 2009.
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I associate most things from my childhood with baseball and honestly many things still to this day. I don’t really associate with the grade of school I was in growing up but more with what level of baseball I was playing at or who won the World Series, MVP that year or something similar to that. That’s how much I love baseball and it’s always been that way.

Don Mattingly was my favorite player growing up and I can pretty much tell you anything he did any day in his career. He retired the same year Jeter was called up. The next year was 1996 and the Yankees won the championship. I literally cried that Mattingly wasn’t on that team.
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However, I found a new hero that year in Jeter. From the first time I saw him play live in 1995 til the last time I saw him play live Wednesday afternoon and on TV last night; he has been the class of baseball and carried himself in a way that you want to conduct yourself and you want your friends or children to be like.

Women want to be with Derek Jeter; men want to be Derek Jeter. But what makes him different from actors, rock stars and other star athletes is that he was always approachable and always carried himself with class and put his team first. He was the Pride of the Yankees; with all apologies to Lou Gehrig.
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I’m not personal friends with Jeter but I did meet him twice over the years and each time albeit short, he couldn’t have been nicer. What makes it special is I will always remember those encounters and not in a star struck way but in a respectful way.

I no longer look at star athletes with the same admiration I did when I was a kid. I have friends that play professional sports now and with all the scandals and steroids etc. that have plagued pro sports in the past decade I’ve kind of become disheartened with it a bit. But not with Derek Jeter-he is and always has been different.
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That’s the other thing with Jeter; he’s the last pure player left in my view. With his retirement, I no longer have a player that I love to follow. I love baseball, not just the Yankees, but no other player comes close and I fear I will lose some serious interest in the game. That’s sad to me and it’s almost like I’m finishing a great book.

So as a huge Derek Jeter fan, I am truly sad today. I am sad because it’s the end of an era, the end of a connection to a team, a city, a player and some of my favorite memories of the last 20 years. That may sound dramatic but I mean that.
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I have probably seen Derek Jeter play live 400 times over the past 20 years at Yankee Stadium and I’ve also seen him play dozens of times on the road in regular and post season. I have been at countless big playoff and World Series games and literally some of those games were the best memories and so much more meaningful than just baseball.

I went to all the home World Series games in 2001 a few weeks after 9/11. Those 3 games including game 4 where Jeter hit the game winning home run and became Mr. November helped me and the city of New York forget about the devastation of 9/11 for a little while and started the healing process in a small way. That game 4, Halloween night 2001, also occurred on the same day my grandpa died who was a huge Yankees fan. I wasn’t even going to go but my father, a huge Yankee fan, told me to still go to the game.
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This may sound crazy or whatever but I like to think my grandpa had something to do with that and then the craziness of game 5 the next night as well.

This is obviously on a different level as Derek Jeter is alive and well, but I remember when Michael Jackson died…I cried. Not because I was that upset (even though we share a birthday) or even that I really liked him that much to be honest but because it reminded me of my childhood. His famous songs which are forever embedded in our minds will live on forever and remind me of times, people and moments of your life.

The same thing will be said by many baseball fans about Derek Jeter. He is the Michael Jordan of baseball. The memories he was a part of will never be forgotten including the final chapter-the amazing ending to the game last night. He is a transcendent athlete and the greatest Yankee anyone under 60 has ever seen play.
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That means something to us: New Yorkers; baseball fans; Yankees. Derek Jeter makes us all want to be Yankees. He made us all want to work hard and strive for greatness. He made us want conduct ourselves the way he has himself all these years.

One of the main reasons that myself, New Yorkers and baseball fans around America connect with Jeter is exactly what he said in the post game interview last night. He said he wasn’t the most talented guy but he succeeded because he worked harder than anyone else. His mental toughness and work ethic are his two most admirable traits in my opinion.
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He was the heart and sole of the greatest baseball dynasty since the Yankees of the early 1950’s. He is a role model to everyone and someone that I will tell my kids one day-I saw Derek Jeter play. He represents a connection to my grandfather, father and many great friends.

That’s what Derek Jeter means to me and I wish The Captain all the best in retirement. I tip my cap to him.

Thank you for being a big part of my life for the last 20 years. Re2pect.
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Comments

  1. Great post, Lee! Re2pect!

  2. BARF!!

    Just kidding. You guys are very lucky to have had him. And us MLB fans from other AL East cities have had to begrudgingly admit this in recent years.

    Congratulations to the man. What a terrific career.

  3. He’ll always remind of the good years and the amazing turnaround. People younger than us don’t remember when the Yankees were bad in the 80’s and early 90’s…class act all the way.

  4. Wow! You REALLY loved the guy, but more than that, I think you love how baseball makes you feel. You feel like a kid all over again, each and every time!

  5. I never did like the Yankees but one cannot help but have respect for the Jete. All the best to Derek Jeter … future Hall-of-Famer and all around great human being.

    Our hats are off …

    Willshane

  6. Well said. Defines an era from our lives. How lucky we were to have an amazing team to follow for so many years.

  7. C A Valente says

    You made me cry like a baby! I can’t even watch baseball anymore I miss him so much. He was so special and I fear there will never be anyone like him again in any sport. Sidney Crosby is a class act thank god there are a few still out there. I tried to bring my sons up just like Mrs. Jeter did!

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