I have to admit I’ve never really been a huge Derek Jeter fan. I thought he was nothing more than just a good shortstop who was on the right team at the right time. A system guy…kind of like Tom Brady. I felt that he was a bit over-rated, a man who because of his looks and personality was often treated a little better by the fans and media than he should.
Last night (25.September.2014) I was one of the many who were fortunate enough to be inside Yankee Stadium to see him play his last home game ever…and because of that experience I will say that I have a little more respect for him now. The Stadium was absolutely electric, it had the feel of a World Series game 7. His teammates let him take the field first to a raucous standing ovation from the crowd, along with the first of perhaps 25 times we would chant his name over and over. That carried into his first plate appearance in the bottom of the first. With one man on base Jeter hit a rocket into left field that just barely missed leaving the park. After a passed ball would move him over to third base, the next man up hit a single and just like that, Jeter was 1 for 1, with a double, an RBI, and a run scored. Not bad for any night…much less your last night.
The rest of his night would be rather lackluster, resembling any other night any other player could have had. Fast forward to the top of the ninth, with the Yankees up 5-2. Jeter had his last at bat of the game in the bottom of the 7th, a meaningless ground out to put him at 1 for 4 for the night. With the home team up comfortably, the closer comes in to do his job…only he doesn’t. Two home runs from the Orioles means not only are we tied, but that Jeter gets to come up 1 more time. After a single to open the inning, the lead off man comes up and I can hear someone in the crowd behind me yell, “sacrifice him over so Jeter can knock him in.” Next thing I know a bunt is laid down and the runner moves over to second base. Up comes Jeter. The crowd has now been on its feet for a good 15 minutes straight now and this is only just the beginning. People are going absolutely crazy with the thought of what might happen next, (dramatic pause) and then it actually happens. Jeter takes the first pitch he sees and drives it between the first and second baseman into right field, the right fielder comes up throwing to try to nail the man sliding into home, but he’s safe! 6-5 Yanks, Jeter hits a walk off single to win the game in the bottom of the ninth…his last ever home game. Are you kidding me?!?! You could not have scripted it any better than that.
I still maintain he was never better than an above average shortstop, but I will also say that I am beyond jealous of him. Not only has he gotten paid millions to play a kids game, he was blessed to be on a great team and the perfect time. He’s won, he’s enjoyed success, fame, and he’s managed to stay humble and well liked…who wouldn’t be jealous of that. I’ll state the obvious fact that yes, that jealousy has been part of my view of him for years now…big deal. He had a fairy tale ending, find me any kid in middle America who hasn’t dreamed that he was the one with that ending, or that he was the one hitting the shot as time expired. Find me that kid and I’ll show you Derek Jeter.
He will no doubt get a front office job with the Yankees now, they’d be fools to let him go somewhere else. He’ll more than likely be a part of this franchise for the rest of his life, I mean, can you imagine him anywhere else?