Growing up in Michigan, Derek Jeter once wrote in an elementary school paper that he envisioned himself being the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees when he grew up. It was the classic response from the average young athlete. However, most probably didn’t take him seriously. Most probably didn’t realize that he was dead serious about his dream.
Looking back on that dream approximately 30 years after it was imagined and after 20 years of major-league playing time, Jeter has outperformed even the loftiest of dreams. It’s not just the fact that he’s the Yankees’ all-time hits leader. It’s not just the fact that he’s been at the center of some of baseball’s most iconic October moments. It’s not just the fact that he’s a five-time World Series champion. It’s how he played the game.
Jeter was a class act from start to finish. In an age where players routinely bolt for opportunities in other cities, Jeter stuck around in New York and continued to build his legacy. From his head-first diving catch into the stands to his unconventional back-hand flip to home in the ALDS, Jeter created enough classic moments for an entire generation of baseball fans.
That very generation of baseball fans showed their appreciation for Jeter at the All-Star Game when he was removed in the fourth inning. He trotted off the field, tipped his cap and looked around. Thousands of fans in the stadium and millions of fans around the country showed their recognition for one of the greatest to ever play the game.
When you’re watching a player in real time, it’s often hard to realize the greatness you’re watching it. That’s not the case with Jeter. The reception he got in Minnesota and the reception he’s been getting at MLB ballparks all season long is proof of that. People realize that they will no longer be able to watch a legend after this season.
For any kids who saw Jeter’s dream when he was in grade school, this moment must seem surreal. If any of them laughed, they’re not laughing anymore.