RE2PECT

Recently, Major League Baseball had one of its brightest stars retire. On Sept. 28, Derek Jeter played his final Major League Baseball game on the road at the historic Fenway Park. Jeter was removed from the game after recording an infield base hit and RBI in his second at-bat of the game. The final game brought him to a total of 3,465 hits and 1,311 RBI over his illustrious 20-year career.

However, Jeter’s true final game, the game that will be remembered for years to come, the one I will describe to my eventual children, came days earlier on Sept. 25 in front of a sold-out Yankee Stadium crowd. With the game tied at 5-5, Jeter came to the plate, with a man in scoring position on second. 

Moments like these have been made for Jeter. Jeter always seems to have read and rehearsed the script while the others on stage, or the diamond, are just improvising. But as Jeter dug into the box in the bottom of the ninth on that night even he was improvising. Jeter, who has been known for his unique ability to mask emotion, was breathing heavily, swallowing often and fidgeting constantly. 

As he laced a game-winning single to right field, relief and jubilation filled Yankee Stadium. Jeter was doused in a Gatorade bath. Tom Hanks says in “A League of Their Own,” “there is no crying in baseball,” however just this once, we allowed it. Jeter’s parents, teammates (current and former) and many fans were teary-eyed. It was, however hyperbolic, the end of an era. 

I have grown up watching and idolizing Derek Jeter. His first Major League game was played the year I was born. Throughout my love affair with baseball and the Yankees, and it is love (though likely not mutual), all I have ever known is Derek Jeter. 

As a child I used to stand in the backyard between the square plastic cutouts reading second and third base, often ranging to my right, fielding the dented and dirtied whiffle ball while simultaneously jumping and throwing to one of my brother’s standing on first base -- Jeter’s signature move. In my bedroom I had a poster of Derek Jeter, in my closet hung his jersey. Jeter was to me what Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky have been to others. He was the reason I wanted to play shortstop in little league. He was the reason I wanted to play, watch and read about baseball. Derek Jeter, for the past 20 years, has been baseball for me. 

Now that Jeter’s career has ended, many people have taken to several different platforms to give him thanks. This is mine. Thank you, Derek, for letting me grow up with an idol like you-- I needed that.