As a 20-year-old living in the shadow of New York City, there has been one player that has defined my time as a New York Yankees fan: Derek Jeter.
A member of the “Core Four” alongside Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera, he brought the team five championships in his 20 years in the Bronx. He’s so iconic that he came to bat with Bob Sheppard’s famous introduction (“now batting for the Yankees, number 2, Derek Jeter, number 2”), even years after the longtime Yankee Stadium PA announcer passed away. Every time I watched a game featuring my beloved team, there he was, getting on base and flashing the leather at shortstop.
Even three years after his retirement, Jeter still holds a special place in my heart. I commemorate him in my room with a framed picture over my bed and two bobbleheads on my bookshelf. For me and so many other Yankee fans my age, Jeter was my childhood icon. He was the player I looked up to, the role model who I aspired to be. And even though it feels like forever since he has suited up for a game, he remains, to this day, one of my favorite players to ever play the game of baseball.
And after all that he has done for his childhood team, the one he always dreamed of playing for, they have now paid him back. The Yankees retired his iconic #2 yesterday in a ceremony that brought me back to my days as kid, looking up to him and his greatness. It was truly a touching moment for all involved. So many former players and coaches that watched him develop were on hand to commemorate his illustrious career.
There have been so many memories that I have of him. The dive into stands against the Red Sox in 2004. The walk-off home run he hit the day my father pulled me out of school to take me to a game in 2005. The speech he gave after the final game at the old Yankee Stadium in 2008 (I was there). Becoming the second player ever to reach 3,000 hits with a home run in 2011. The walk-off hit in his final home game in 2014. You name something dramatic you can do in a baseball game and he did it. It’s why he was the favorite player of not just Yankee fans, but many young fans of the game all across the world.
Every generation has those one or two baseball players that all kids look up to. And while this generation has Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, my generation had Derek Jeter. But he was more than just a baseball player. His play transcended the game itself, and had ramifications outside of the diamond. Kids didn’t just look up to him, they wanted to be him. They saw this superstar, who as a kid had a dream of playing shortstop for the New York Yankees, and were inspired to pursue whatever dreams that they had. So just like the Yankees last night, I take this moment to celebrate Derek Jeter. My hero even to this day, I truly believe there will never be another player like him.