Maybe you think of me as the goofball with the Wes Anderson-esque apartment and the endless piles of books, but I am also a Yankees fan. In the wake of Derek Jeter announcing his retirement, I felt like I had to come clean and admit to any skeptics how much it’s meant to me to watch Derek Jeter play.
Bernie Williams may have been the guy who hit one out of the park at my very first game, but Jeter has always been my favorite. Jeter was the one that started my baseball card collection, and Jeter was the first bobblehead in my “Yankees Shrine” (I ended up having quite a lot of Yankees bobbleheads). More than that though, I remember reading the book he wrote called, The Life You Imagine. I’ve lost track of how many times I read it. It is sitting on my bookshelf now, and boy, it definitely looks loved. I read that book whenever I needed a kick in the ass and the motivation to get my schoolwork done so that I too could live the life I imagined. If that skinny kid from Kalamazoo could reach his dreams of becoming a Yankee and staying a Yankee, than I certainly could survive grade school.
I remember the day my sister and I waited at the away dugout in Tampa Bay, a shiny new baseball in hand, hoping against hope that someone in pinstripes would come over and give us their autograph. And then Jeter did. I held my sister’s feet so that she could stick herself even further out over the railing to get his attention. He took our baseball and smiled that big Jeter grin and signed our baseball and many others and I remember thinking that this guy wasn’t kidding when he said that “[he’s] thankful each day [his] dreams have unfolded” (Jeter, The Life You Imagine, 2001).
There are all the stats of course. It is not hard to argue Jeter as one of the best. He is the Yankees all-time career leader in hits, at-bats, games played, and stolen bases. He has 5 gold gloves, and is only the 28th player in the history of baseball to reach 3,000 hits. Then there are all the post-season records; he is not called “Captain Clutch” for nothing. Jeter exudes “Yankee-ness” and he is the classiest guy that I have ever had the pleasure of seeing don the pinstripes. If we are talking all-time Yankees, you won’t need to defend Jeter to me. That guy can play.
Yet, when you ask me 20 years from now what stuck out the most to me about Derek Jeter, it won’t be the stats that come to mind. It will probably be that out of all those SI Kids cards I collected- the ones showing faces of the up-and-coming…Out of all the many athletes I followed, Jeter was the one that never stopped being who he said he was. Nowadays, it seems harder and harder to find those that can survive superstardom without losing their integrity, but Jeter has done just that. He played his heart out, and gained the recognition he deserved, but he never stopped being that wide-eyed kid in love with America’s favorite pastime. I’m gonna miss you, Jetes. I have no doubt you’re going to play your hardest to your very last day. Here’s to 2014.
At sunset on the Fourth of July,
just as the Shriners shot off
over the football stadium
the first McDonald’s in Las Cruces
switched on its lights
and opened its doors
and shone there harshly against
the nothing, like a shrine
to itself, and that same evening
by some act of grace
the vacant lot across the street
caught on fire, starting small
and gaining, tossing everything—every
weed and paper cup
into its sack of flames
and keeping it.
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And - which is more - you’ll be a Man, my son!
If he and she do not know each other, and feel confident
they will not meet again; if he avoids affectionate words;
if she has grown insensible skin under skin; if they desire
only the tribute of another’s cry; if they employ each other
as revenge on old lovers or families of entitlement and steel-
then there will be no betrayals, no letters returned unread,
no frenzy, no hurled words of permanent humiliation,
no trembling days, no vomit at midnight, no repeated
apparition of a body floating face-down at the pond’s edge.