As in Derek Jeter, the New York Yankee shortstop who has worn the number two on his pinstriped uniform for the last twenty years. The baseball superstar retires today after a spectacular career.
The baseball and sports universe has celebrated Jeter throughout this season, with opposing teams presenting him with cool gifts, fans giving him standing ovations, and reporters lauding him in print articles and television specials. Earlier this month, the Yankees held a ceremony at Yankee Stadium before a Sunday afternoon game; several of Jeter’s former teammates and his longtime manager Joe Torre were there to honor him, along with Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and basketball legend Michael Jordan.
The praise has been universal and well deserved. Jeter’s calm demeanor in high-pressure situations, steely mental strength, impeccable behavior, sportsmanship, unfaltering leadership, and generosity have been the character traits mentioned repeatedly. The work of the charity he founded, Turn 2 Foundation, which has helped many youngsters achieve their goals and lead healthy lives, has also received worthy attention for its tremendous accomplishments.
These qualities are the reason Jeter is an excellent role model for kids, but they also have made him an inspiration to adults. He has spurred us to strive for excellence: in our work, our charity, as parents, and as friends. In a time of less-than-admirable behavior from athletes and celebrities, it is remarkable that Derek Jeter never once in his long career did anything to embarrass himself, his family, his teammates, his employer, or his profession.
A great amount of the credit goes to his parents, Charles and Dorothy. Fans know that when Jeter was a kid, his parents made him and his sister sign a yearly contract outlining appropriate and inappropriate behavior. To play baseball, Jeter had to maintain certain academic grades and avoid drugs and alcohol. His mother did not allow him to use the word “can’t.” Dr. and Mrs. Jeter kept their son’s focus on his goal, to be the Yankees’ shortstop, guiding him with their wisdom and love.
Yankee fans will miss Derek Jeter, the baseball player, very much. We’ll miss his clutch hitting (he’s number six on the all-time hits list) and trademark fielding as shortstop. But we will miss Derek Jeter, the person, so much more. We need him to remind us of what we can be when we choose to be kind, to persevere in times of challenge, to put the team before the self.
Thank you, Derek.
I’ll end with a World Series prediction. Since the Yankees are out of the race, I’m going with an all-bird final (what can I say, I love birds): the Saint Louis Cardinals vs. the Baltimore Orioles. What do you think?
Have a great week, everyone!