File Photo courtesy of Keith Allison
When most players retire, they set up a news conference before, during or after the season to thank their fans, coaches and team for the wonderful memories. Then, when the final out of the last game of the season is recorded, they pack up their belongings and walk out of the ball park for the last time.
Yet, Derek Jeter is not most players.
“He was the model baseball player. Every kid who wanted to be good wanted to be like him growing up, so you know he was somebody that everybody looked up to,” said Aaron Roth, a lifelong baseball player and current relief pitcher for the California Lutheran University baseball team.
For the past 20 years, Jeter has not only been the face of the Yankees, but the face of baseball. In a time when baseball is still recovering from the steroid era, Jeter has been a prime example of what a player can be when he plays the game right. Known for his hard work, preparation and constant hustling, Jeter was the face of baseball for all the right reasons. He mentored teammates as they took the field for the first time leaving adults and kids admiring him from the stands.
Whether you are the Yankees biggest fan or despise them with all your heart, it is almost impossible not to respect how Jeter played the game.
During his 19-year career, Jeter has been an “All-Star” 13 times, has been a five-time Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award winner and has won five world series rings (earning World Series MVP in 2000).
“Derek for me and for everybody has been the ultimate ambassador for baseball and a role model for fans and the rest of the players in our league,” said Bud Selig, commissioner of the MLB in an interview with the Yankee Entertainment and Sports Network.
On Feb. 12, 2014, Jeter announced that he will retire from the game at the conclusion of the 2014 season. His announcement sent shock waves through baseball as people were already trying to imagine a baseball season without him.
The 2014 season will be Jeter’s farewell tour from baseball. Much like his former teammate, Mariano Rivera, who had a “farewell tour” last season, each time he visits a ballpark for the last time, he will be honored in a pre-game ceremony set up by the opposing team that will include a tribute and gifts. When he steps up to bat for the first time he will be given a standing ovation from the opposing fans thanking him for his years of service and being the player he was.
“I instantly admired him for his skill and ability to win. He was someone I wanted to model my game after,” said Matthew Bowman, who has been a Yankees fan his entire life.
Jeter inspired 20 years of baseball players and continues to be a shining example of how the game should be played. It is simply Jeter’s time to step away from baseball as a player and let the younger generation take over the reins.
Jeter will end his career in the not so friendly confines of Fenway Park in Boston. But when he is in the batter’s box for that final time, there is a possibility that baseball will hear its loudest cheer ever.
While the cheers will eventually subside, the impact that Jeter has had to the game of baseball never will.
Published April 16, 2014