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September 30th, 2014

Derek Jeter. Photo credit: Keith Allison via Flickr/Creative Commons

You don’t have to be from New York or even like baseball to appreciate Derek Jeter, the famous New York Yankees shortstop.

He is one of the great sports figures of all time — of any sport, anytime.

He’s in the news because he retired from baseball over the weekend, ending an absolutely incredible career. But Derek Jeter is about so much more than that.

He was the Yankees shortstop for 20 years … and he showed us what we can accomplish when we do our very best. In his case that’s 5 world series championships, the 6th most hits in all of baseball history and the most of any Yankee, 17 play-off appearances, 14 all-star games, and he was the Yankees captain. His next step is to be inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Just the fact that he played for one team his entire career, two decades, is almost unheard of in professional sports these days.

What’s truly amazing about him though is that he managed to do all of this having earned the respect and admiration of his teammates, the fans … and the players he played against. His jersey’s #2 was incorporated into the word Respect to show that he’s synonymous with it.

He did it by working hard, and by being about his team, not about himself. He did it by respecting the game and his opponents, and by playing fair during a time when others were using steroids to cheat. He didn’t brag. He appreciated the fans. And he always, always tried his best. Here’s perhaps his most famous example of that:

In true Derek Jeter fashion, his very last game in New York had a story book ending. The game actually looked like it was going to be rained out, which would have meant no real goodbye for Derek Jeter and his adoring fans. That would have been a pretty sad and unceremonious way to cap his stellar 20-year career. But the clouds parted shortly before the game and a rainbow appeared over Yankee stadium.

Rainbow over Yankee Stadium shortly before Derek Jeter's last home game September 25, 2014. Photo used with permission by A. DeWys

Toward the end of the game, the Yankees were up 5-3 and looked like they were about to win the game … when the Yankees pitcher seemingly BLEW it, giving up two runs to tie the game 5-5!

Now, in the bottom the 9th inning, Derek Jeter would get one more chance at bat.

Could he do something magical with it?  Would he strike out on his very last at bat ever at Yankee Stadium? It was incredibly nerve-wracking as nearly 50,000 people at Yankee Stadium were chanting his name and millions more were glued to their radios or TVs around the country and around the world. How would it turn out? His nickname was Captain Clutch for coming up with big plays during important moments. But he is also a bit older now and though still awesome, arguably not as effective as he used to be. Gulp.

He gets up to bat. He takes a swing at the very first pitch … and hits one of his specialities, an inside out single … it’s not a home run, but it gets past the Baltimore Orioles enough to get the Yankee who was on second base all the way home for the Yankees to win the game 6-5. A walk-off hit to win the game! Just wow.

Here’s a re-cap of some of his walk-off hits throughout his career, including the very last one.

Hi final game was against the Yankees biggest rival, the Boston Red Sox, and the Red Sox and the fans showed him nothing but respect for Derek Jeter. And he went out a winner in his final game.

Even the Empire State Building changed its colors to the Yankees pin stripes to honor Jeter — pretty spectacular for a kid growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan who knew from a young age that the only thing he ever wanted to be was a shortstop for the New York Yankees. He spent about half his life doing just that. And we were all lucky to be part of it.

Derek Jeter just released a new book for middle-schoolers called The Contract . It’s a novel but it follows his childhood closely and talks about the contract his parents made him sign about trying his best and being a good person.

You can read the contract his parents made him sign here.

Derek Jeter also has Jeter’s Leaders , a youth leadership program and you can learn more about that by clicking here . One of their core values is to be educated on current events! Yay!

And if you haven’t had enough Derek Jeter highlights, you can click here for a good one made by a fan on YouTube. Please do so with an adult’s permission.

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