BY BRYAN COLLINS
As another season winds down in Major League Baseball and post-season hopefuls make their push into the playoffs, there is one person who continues to transcend the sport, once again stealing the spotlight.
Derek Jeter is wrapping up one of the most successful careers the sports industry has ever seen, both on and off the field. He will finish with a .310 career batting average, over 3,400 hits (6th all-time), over 350 stolen bases, 14 All-Star Selections, five Gold Glove Awards, five Silver Slugger Awards, 1996 Rookie of the Year, 2000 World Series Most Valuable Player, and of course, as Captain of the New York Yankees. Based on these stats alone, what we are looking at is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, a living legend if you will.
However, those close to Jeter know that accolades and eclipsing hall of famers are not what make him tick. If you were to ask him what he is most proud of, out of all the things he’s accomplished in his 20 years in the league, he would tell you without hesitation that being a five time World Series champion means the most. Not many men throughout the history of baseball can say they have a World Series ring for each finger. That’s what Jeter plays for. He has no interest in the mega-contracts, the endorsements, the fame, the fortune, or to be called the best, but rather to be a part of the last team standing when it’s all said and done.
If it were up to him, there would be no such spotlight on his retirement, instead the focus would remain on his team and success on the field. To Jeter, the New York Yankees mean pride, tradition, and nothing less than being at the top of one’s game. However, what makes him different from the rest is, Jeter has proven that he is not just statistics, Jeter is a series of moments. Whether it’s diving into the stands for a foul ball late in a must win game, hitting a walk-off home run in the World Series, or running halfway across the field away from his position, to redirect a poorly thrown ball to beat the runner at the plate, he makes the moments that count. Jeter represents the intangibles that even the most skilled baseball player lacks. He is “Captain Clutch” and “Mr. November” because Jeter makes the moments you will never forget, all while keeping his usual cool composure because it is simply what he expects from himself.
He has never won a Most Valuable Player of the year award and has never hit 30 home runs in a season in an era of baseball dominated by the long ball. Instead, through timely hitting, solid defense, and an overall knowledge of the game, Jeter became the face of baseball. Jeter made the average fan see that while yes, home runs are exciting, consistent plays and teamwork are what win championships.
More importantly, he showed fans that respecting your opponent and keeping away from bad publicity go a long way. Jeter has never had his name slandered in his two decades of playing in New York of all places, not by the media and more impressively, not by a single player he went into battle against over the years. Jeter is regarded as the professional of professionals by his peers and earned the respect of all whom he encountered.
When Jeter retires from the game at the end of the 2014 season, his No. 2 will be retired by the Yankees and he will be the next name on the list of greats: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and now, Derek Jeter. The legendary coach Don Zimmer spent over 65 years in professional baseball, a coach of Jeter for eight seasons, and when asked about Jeter’s legacy, had only one thing to say, “He might go down, when it’s all over, as the all-time Yankee.”