Let me tell you a story about Derek Jeter. On June 1, 1992, the New York Yankees selected him in the first round, sixth overall, in the MLB Draft. When he came up to the big leagues a few years later, manager Buck Showalter insisted that the equipment manager give him a single-digit number, a high honor in Yankee lore.
In 1996, the Kalamazoo Kid won the AL Rookie of the Year Award. That same year, he won his first of five World Series rings, a total which includes three straight titles from 1998-2000. He earned the nickname “Mr. November” with late-inning World Series heroics against the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001.
In 2003, Jeter became the youngest Yankee ever to be named Captain. The honor, most previously held by Don Mattingly, was bestowed upon him by legendary owner George Steinbrenner.
In 2008, he closed old Yankee Stadium with a win and a moving speech in front of crying fans and dozens of former Yankee legends. Just one year later, he led the Bombers to their 27th World Series victory, a fitting way to open the new Yankee Stadium, or “The House that Jeter Built.”
On July 9, 2011, Jeter, no doubt feeling the pressure of sitting at 2,999 hits for his career, smacked a home run off David Price to secure his 3,000th hit in front of a roaring Yankee Stadium crowd. He went 5-for-5 on the day.
The 13-time All-Star led all of baseball in hits with 216 in 2012 – a year prior to which he faced harsh criticism about his age and possible signs of decline. He had been a role model, a leader and a true ambassador of the game for two decades. Then, in February of 2014, he announced that he would be playing in his final season.
He came into the year looking and feeling completely recovered from his 2013 injuries. Sure, he might have lost a step or two, but he still hit like a machine and ended the year with more than 200 hits. He humbly accepted gifts from every away team for the entirety of the 2014 schedule, much like his teammate Mariano Rivera had done the year before.
Jeter and his Yankees took a hotly contested AL East battle right into the depths of September, narrowly eking out the Tampa Bay Rays for first place. An epic pitcher’s duel between Masahiro Tanaka and Clay Buchholz at Fenway during the last series of the year iced the division for the boys in blue, and the Yankees rode into the playoffs feeling the momentum.
They took on wild card winning Tampa and won in the divisional round, setting up a 2012 ALCS rematch with the Detroit Tigers. Fans held their collective breath as they remembered Jeter’s horrific ankle injury just two years prior, but no such bad luck was in store this time around. The Yanks took the series in seven, winning on an 11th-inning walk-off homer by Mark Teixeira. Jeter scored the winning run.
The Yankees took on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Series. Mattingly vs. Jeter – captain vs. captain. As was only right, the series ended at Yankee Stadium with Jeter hoisting his sixth and final World Series trophy. He didn’t win MVP Honors – those went to new teammate Jacoby Ellsbury – but for the captain, individual honors have never mattered much.
That is a story about Derek Jeter — whether the ending is fact or fiction remains to be seen. Good luck captain, and thank you.