While the stench of scandal still surrounds the NFL, the New York Yankees’ Captain is a much-needed reminder of days when athletes were recognized more for their athletic prowess and moral decency that their penchant for violence, drug abuse and debauchery.
Derek Jeter, the man whose held down the Yankees’ middle infield for the last 20 years, played his final game in Yankee Stadium last week to great fanfare across the country.
Jeter got his start in baseball on a little league sandlot in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
His family had moved to Michigan from New Jersey, where the Jeter’s attended many Yankees’ games and where the young Derek Jeter first learned of his love for the game — a love that would one day propel him into the annuls of baseball lore.
I’m not a Yankees fan, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I am a baseball fan and Jeter embodies everything that is and ever was good about America’s pastime.
For one, you don’t see a lot of franchise players these days, guys who stick with one ball club through thick and thin for the entirety of their career.
In an era of free agents, constantly jockeying for a bigger payday, Jeter was a man who stood by his team and his town, no matter what.
Granted, the Yankees have the largest coffers in professional baseball so they could afford to pay him as much as he required, but I believe there’s more to it than that — Jeter is the kind of guy who valued loyalty and unwaning commitment to something bigger than money, bigger than fame.
Let’s not forget Jeter’s amazing athletic prowess.
Jeter ended his 20-year career in The Bigs with a .310 batting average, 3,465 hits, 260 homers and 1,311 RBI’s.
Further, Jeter was 14-time All-Star, a five-time Silver Slugger and Golden Glove award winner, a two-time Hank Aaron Award winner, a Roberto Clemente Award winner and led the Yanks to five World Series’ victories.
And, as if his boundless dedication and astounding athleticism weren’t enough, Jeter was a dynamo off-the-field as well.
In 1996, Jeter established the Turn 2 Foundation whose mission is to help children avoid drugs and alcohol, as well as reward children who show high academic achievements.
In 2013, Jeter, in collaboration with print giants Simon & Schuster, established the imprint Jeter Publishing.
The group will publish books of various genres, including adult non-fiction, children’s picture books, elementary age fiction and books designed to help kids learn to read.
Being a man prone to nostalgia, particularly as it pertains to the game I love so well, Jeter reminds me of many of the great Yanks who’ve come before him — Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Roger Maris and Yogi Berra.
The type of guys you can imagine slugging it out on old sandlots on a Sunday afternoon, not for the crowd or the money or the fame, but for the love of the greatest game on Earth.
Baseball has had its pristine legacy marred in recent history.
Between the player strikes of the 1990’s and the Steroids Era thereafter, it was doubtful that baseball would ever look like America’s game again — the game that Confederate and Union soldiers laid down their weapons to play, the game that captured the imaginations of generations of little boys.
But it’s players like Derek Jeter who have made it obvious that baseball is still that game.
There’s nothing like a day at the old ball park — the sound of baseballs popping in leather mitts, the smell of freshly mowed grass and charcoal grills, the sight of stark white jerseys, radiant scoreboard displays and hordes of baseball’s faithful filing in to the stadium.
I hate the Yankees, mostly because they tore down “The House That Ruth Built,” but they may have just found redemption.
From now on, farm league hurlers and little leaguer rovers will dream of the day that they’ll get to play in “The House That Jeter Built.”
So long, Cap — America salutes you for giving us two decades of good baseball and the reminder that this game is the greatest ever created.
Crossposted from Piece Of Mind
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