The Legend of Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter. That name brings up countless memories for baseball fans alike. The 11th Captain of the New York Yankees has been playing in the major leagues for 20 years, and after watching his final game at Yankee Stadium, it is hard not to love and respect a player who always played the game of baseball with class, hustle, and determination.
Regarded as one of the all-time greatest players to ever play the game, Jeter grew up in the small city of Kalamazoo, Michigan where he excelled and showed his potential for greatness. At Kalamazoo Central High, Jeter boasted .557 and .508 batting averages in his junior and senior season respectively, and was selected as the High School Player of the Year in 1992 by the American Baseball Coaches Association. This got the attention of the New York Yankees whom ended up drafting Jeter with the sixth overall pick in the 1992 MLB draft. Jeter initially struggled his first year in the minors, but presented solid numbers the next two years. Finally, in the spring of 1996, Joe Torre, the manager of the Yankees, made the decision to start Jeter at shortstop, the first time a rookie would be playing at the position for the Yanks since 1962. His first season was nothing but successful. Jeter went on to win Rookie of the Year in which he had a .314 average with 104 runs. In his postseason run with the Yanks, Jeter hit .361, and won his first out of five World Series titles, the first one for the Yankees since 1978. The Yankees would win the World Series again in 1998 in which they compiled a strong 114-win season with only 48 losses. This year would be the start of a new era for the Yankees with the additions of Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada. This core of players would be the foundation on which the new Yankees would find success, and often. Over the course of the next two years, the Yankees would win two more World Series in ’99 and ’00, and would make it again to the World Series in ’01, but would lose to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Jeter would also gain huge recognition for his style of play as noted in the ’01 ALDS (American League Division Series) against the Oakland Athletics. Known as “The Flip,” Yankee right fielder, Shane Spencer, had missed both cutoffs when trying to throw Oakland Athletic Jason Giambi out at home. In one of the most iconic plays in post-season baseball history, Jeter ran to where the ball was dying off before home plate, and flipped the ball to catcher Jorge Posada, getting Giambi out by a whim. Many consider this to be a momentum-changer as Oakland had won the first two games of the ALDS, and after this game the Yankees would go on to win the next three, and the whole series.
In February of 2014, Jeter announced that he would be retiring at the end of the regular season. This created a stir amongst baseball fans alike, and throughout the entire season opposing teams honored Jeter and the impact he has had on baseball. Over the course of 20 years Jeter has 5 World Series Rings, 14 All-star selections, 5 Golden Glove Awards, 5 Silver Slugger Awards, and 2 Hank Aaron Awards. In terms of Yankee records, Jeter became the all-time Yankee hit leader after he surpassed the great Lou Gehrig with his 2, 722nd hit on Sep. 11, 2009. Jeter also has the most plate appearances (12, 602), at bats (11, 195), singles (2, 595), doubles (544), stolen bases (358) and games played (2, 747). Jeter wouldn’t stop there, though. On July 9, 2011, Jeter would collect his 3,000 hit, joining only a 28 others that have accomplished the same thing. In a typical Jeter-like fashion, Jeter faced Tampa Bay Devil Ray pitcher, David Price, and in the bottom of the 3rd, with a 3-2 count, Jeter launched a towering home run into the left field bleachers after a slider hung in the strike zone. With these accomplishments, it’s easy to see why Jeter has been so admired by many, and why he’s currently regarded as one of the best players to ever wear the Pinstripe jersey.
Final Game at Yankee Stadium
Sep. 25, 2014 would mark Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium. Playing against the Baltimore Orioles, his first at bat was almost a complete replay of his 3,000 hit as he crushed a pitch just short of the left field fence, earning himself a double. Jeter would then strike out and would get into a fielders choice, but his final at bat at Yankee Stadium may be one of his most memorable moments of his career. With a runner on second base in the bottom of the 9th inning, some would assume Jeter had the utmost pressure upon him, but this wasn’t a situation that Jeter wasn’t accustomed to. On the first pitch, Jeter punched the ball between the 1st and 2nd basemen into right field, and was able to score the winning run that tied his fate to Yankee history forever. Jeter acknowledged he almost let his emotions get the best of him, but his composure in important moments is what has made Jeter one of the best players to ever play the game. The impact that Derek Jeter has had on baseball cannot be denied. He’s been a player, and person, that kids have chosen to follow and admire, and he’s presented himself as a diligent and honorable player, rarely losing his temper or expressing a negative attitude. Above all else, he refused to be out-hustled. He never once stopped short of first base when he was a guaranteed out, and he never gave less than his best. An era has truly come to an end, and when we look to try and find the face of Major League Baseball, we have no sure confirmation of who that is anymore.