Years ago, early in the adventure I call elementary school, I was faced with a major career decision. Should I become an actor, a director (as if I knew what this was at 8 years old) or an astronaut? Well it turns out I’m not a big fan of the spotlight, don’t have a clue how one becomes a director, and I’m not too keen on flying. 0 for 3 on career choices. But that’s the point. How many of us have been able to live out childhood dreams and turn them into careers? Well I can tell you one kid who did just that; Derek Jeter.
As we approach a milestone, reached by only 27 other people in baseball history, we should think about Jeter’s place in history. Every other player to reach 3,000 hits who is eligible is in the Hall of Fame (except of course the banned Pete Rose), and Jeter will surely follow in that path. He went from a boy with pinstripe hopes and big city dreams to the face of the most popular and profitable sports franchise in America.
He wasn’t flashy, he wasn’t larger than life. He has always been the humble kid who just tries harder than everyone else. Jeter was not blessed with a crushing power swing or blazing speed. He was not touted as one of the rare five-tool players. Yet what he lacked in hype, he made up for with heart. With the eyes of the world upon him, he carried on as a consummate professional and just simply worked.
A member of a dying breed of players who have spent their whole career with one team, Jeter lives among the giants of Yankee lore. The Yankees are a team who have had almost as many villains as they have heroes. While marred by the villains of the steroid era, they are still a team where the ghost of Mickey Mantle patrols center field, a team where Lou Gehrig and his microphone still stand at home plate, and a team where Joltin’ Joe is still collecting hits.
As we stand at the brink of yet another Yankee milestone and Major League milestone, let’s all take a moment to appreciate the beauty of Jeter’s career. Unlike Alex Rodriguez, who will likely collect his 3,000th hit sometime next summer, the world will be watching Derek Jeter’s every swing this summer with a sense of pride and admiration in anticipation of history.
To the Steinbreners, Brian Cashman, the Yankees brass, and any others who doubted Jeter’s worth during his ugly contract negotiation during the off-season, remember this; Even if Derek Jeter’s stats are trending down as his career slowly draws to a close, he will single-handedly sell tickets to his quest for history.
And when his career does come to an end, you can expect to see his trademark number 2 hanging on the outfield wall, leaving the number 6 as the only un-retired single digit number for the Yankees.