Derek Jeter, starting shortstop of the New York Yankees for the last nineteen years, has announced this week that he is hanging up his spikes at the conclusion of the 2014 baseball campaign. This announcement should not come as a surprise, as the soon to be 40 year old slugger was limited to just 17 games last year due to serious injuries, and the Yanks have not performed well in recent seasons.
Jeter produced his first career hit back on May 30th, 1995 against the Seattle Mariners and little did anyone know at the time what this skinny kid from Kalamazoo, Michigan would bring to America’s pastime. He has made the South Bronx his personal playground with clutch hit after clutch hit, and his hustle to first base is so respected that opposing managers and coaches use him as an example for their players on how to jump from the batter’s box to squeeze out a hit.
His baseball instincts seem to place him in the right spot so often that one has to wonder if he has an astrological ability to predict the future. But above and beyond Jeter’s ungodly natural talent to play the game, lies his desire to do it the right way; hard-nosed, fair, and with class. In a world full of entitled, irresponsible, mega-rich athletes, he is the player that we want our kids to emulate; parents could feel proud when their son or daughter wore a Derek Jeter #2 jersey. While you thought you knew everything Jeter, here are a few things that may just surprise you.
7. Jeter Has the Ability to Slow the Game Down
Baseball has the unfair distinction of being a very slow sport where it takes forever and a day for things to happen. However, when plays do happen, they happen quickly and decisions must be made under pressure. For the average major leaguer, things will speed up which often leads to mistakes, but this is where Jeter lives. He has the ability to “slow the game down”, a valuable commodity considering the 90 mph fastballs coming down the pike. According to exploratorium.edu, “it takes about four-tenths of a second for the ball to travel the 60 feet and 6 inches from the pitcher’s mound to home plate”. In complex situations, the run of the mill ballplayer may become consumed with the anxiety of the moment; however, Jeter is able to take in all of the variables and still remain composed, enabling him to make plays under the most extreme circumstances.
6. Jeter did Not Want to be Named Yankee Captain
In 2003, Yankee Team Owner, and all-around dictator, George Steinbrenner made the decision that it was time for the Yankees to once again name a Captain for the team, a title that had remained vacant for 8 years upon the departure of “Donny Baseball”, Don Mattingly. However, when approached to take on this immense responsibility, Jete baulked; he did not see himself as a leader and was not interested in the role. He only wanted to go out every day, play hard, and win. Steinbrenner being Steinbrenner eventually won out and Derek Sanderson Jeter was named only the 13th Captain in New York Yankees history, sharing the distinction with the likes of Lou Gehrig, Thurman Munson, and the legendary George Herman “Babe” Ruth.
5. The Ultimate Ladies’ Man
It is no secret that Mr. November also shares the distinction of being Mr. Ladies’ Man. The better question to ponder is; who hasn’t Jeter spent time with? The shortstop has shown that he is an equal opportunity dater, providing of course that you are a supermodel, platinum selling singer, or famous actress, and the list is enough to make even the ultimate playboy, Hugh Hefner, appear amateurish. Back in the day, Derek started things off with the chart topping Mariah Carey. Since then the pinstripe playboy has spent time with the likes of Victoria Secret models Hanna Davis and Tyra Banks, actresses Minka Kelly, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, Jessica Alba, and Jordana Brewster, and even Miss Universe Lara Dutta.
5. Derek Jeter is Fanatical about Guarding His Privacy
One of the keys to Derek Jeter‘s success off the field is that he is an extremely private person. While another more flamboyant major leaguer, Alex Rodriquez, makes the daily tabloids for his unscrupulous exploits and alleged illegal behavior, Jeter is no where to be found. In the largest media market in the world, New York City, Jete has miraculously remained immune to any major controversy for the last two decades. He is so serious about keeping his life, in house, that the shortstop will not even permit electronic devices into his pad. According to the Post Game, “Derek Jeter has a strict “no camera or phones” rule when it comes to his sprawling Florida mansion.”where all entrants are required to drop their cellphone and cameras in a basket provided at the front entrance; no exceptions. While this may seem eccentric and even excessive, Derek understands that much of the controversy that celebrities run into is a direct result of a an opportunistic hanger-on with an iPhone and some good timing.
4. It’s All About October
Derek Jeter is most at home in the post season where his numbers are almost cartoonish is scope. Baseball Reference states that he has more games with 158, at bats with 650, plate appearances with 734, runs scored with 111, hits with 200, total bases with 302, doubles with 32, and triples with 5, than anyone in the history of America’s pastime come October. Derek is also 3rd in home runs with 20 behind only the likes of teammate Bernie Williams, and the Yankees mortal enemy, Manny Ramirez. While there have been many a player who comes up big every once and a while in the post season, Derek has done it consistently. One must wonder if Jeter sees the regular season as his personal warm up for October where the real games begin.
2. What His Peers Have to Say
Derek Jeter has faced many teams in his eighteen plus years in the big leagues and it is rare for a man to command the amount of praise from both teammates and opposition alike as Jeter has. In an ESPN article, the original Mr. October, Reggie Jackson said, “In big games, the action slows down for him where it speeds up for others. I’ve told him, I’ll trade my past for your future.” In the same article, starting ace and big game pitcher Curt Schilling stated, “I know competing against that guy, for the decade or so we matched up, was what made the major leagues the major leagues for someone like me”. Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels refers to Jeter by saying, “On and off the field, he’s the way you want your kids to grow up. Only Jesus is perfect, but he’s pretty close to that guy.”
1. Derek Jeter is Human After All but That Does Not Mean You Should Doubt Him
While it may seem like #2 is the second coming, it is refreshing to hear that he is after all a human being. This fact however only adds to his legend. When Derek Jeter first became a New York Yankee, he faced unfamiliar territory and great uncertainty. According to ESPN New York, “Jeter had never spent a night away from home without his family before he arrived in Tampa for rookie ball.” He later admitted, “I cried every night.” He hit only .210 there. “It was the first time in playing baseball that I struggled,” he said. He made 56 errors in his first season at Class A”. However, Jeter understood his role and what he needed to do to get to the majors. He worked harder than anyone else in the both batters box and on the field, and it wasn’t long before he would earn the everyday shortstop tag in 1996.
While Derek was able to find his way as a young, up and coming ballplayer, he would be faced with another, more serious challenge in his later years. In 2011, Mr. November was now in his late 30’s and had only played in 131 games due to injury. In addition to having his batting average drop below .300, he seemed to have lost a step. Many were calling for him to move away from the shortstop position because his defense had become suspect, and even the veteran Yankees Television broadcaster, Michael Kay, stated on his radio show that Jeter would never again be a .300 hitter. Derek responded the only way he knew how, with his glove and his bat. The following year, Jeter, at the age of 38, silenced his detractors by playing in 159 out of 162 games, knocking in a ridiculous 216 hits, batting for a .316 average, and finishing in the top 10 in MVP voting. It just goes to show that it is not wise to doubt #2.
At the end of the day, we are witnessing the end of an era. Shortstop the for the New York Yankees, #2, Derek Sanderson Jeter has spoiled us with his winning, charisma, and overall quality as a ball player and as a human being; he will surely be missed.
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