Baseball

Why It Mattered


Hi everyone, I’m back. It has been a while and I missed you all. More than that, I missed writing. I’m sitting here now on a United Airlines flight on the way back to San Francisco after witnessing history. I saw Derek Jeter’s last game at Yankee Stadium. And what a game it was. I’ve seen a lot of baseball games in my life – a perfect game, playoff games – and nothing compared to seeing Jeter hit a walk-off single to end his fairytale career in a fairytale manner.

To be fair, the attention to Derek Jeter’s retirement was way too much.   It became such a never-ending story that attention-seeking journalists decided it was appropriate to try to bash Jeter. They said he hurt the team this season, was selfish and wasn’t even a great shortstop. Let’s put aside the fact that Jeter didn’t seek out all of this attention, nor has he ever during his career. Let’s also be clear that any respectable baseball fan already knows that Jeter is not, and has never been, the best baseball player. Even in his prime, there were countless players in the league that were more talented than him. He said as much at his press conference following the game.

He was never the best, but he has always been the greatest. That is not in question.

But, that’s not why I went to the game. It doesn’t matter.

Jeter is known for being a winner. He puts winning above everything else. That never wavered. His consistency in focusing on the team versus himself over a 20-year career is downright amazing. He won five World Series and played in countless playoff games. When the spotlight glared at its brightest, he was never overwhelmed.

But, that’s not why I went to the game. It doesn’t matter.

He made iconic plays. Mr. November. The Dive. The Flip (the greatest defensive play of all time, by the way). The home run on the first pitch in Game 4 against the Mets in 2000. The fist pumps. The head nod to opponents. The way he got into the batters box and held his right hand up toward the umpire until he was ready to hit. It was always the same – we knew everything was going to be okay because Jeter was in the game.

But, that’s not why I went to the game. It doesn’t matter.

At the game. There was a 100% chance of rain -- we never felt a drop.

At the game. There was a 100% chance of rain — we never felt a drop.

His work ethic separated him from others. He hustled on every play. I watched him for 20 years and can’t remember a single time, not one, that he gave up an at-bat. Can anyone? How many times have you seen A-Rod go up to the plate against a tough pitcher and you just knew he was going to strike out? He brought his talent to the plate, but left his brain and courage in the on-deck circle.

Jeter was a throwback to a time when “how you played the game” mattered. He’s never gloated, or watched a home run (not that he’s hit many), been involved in a brawl…nothing. Ever see him lose his temper? How many times has he been ejected from a game? Ahhh, that would be never. He understood what Joe DiMaggio said – that playing the game the right way all the time was important because you never know if there was a kid in the stands seeing his or her first baseball game.

But, that’s not why I went to the game. It doesn’t matter.

In a world of selfies and videotapes, Kardashians and endless narcissism, Jeter has somehow managed to keep his life private. Sure, he gives us a peek at the latest supermodel or actress he’s dating but as much as we think we know him, we have no clue. Maybe he’s a nice guy, maybe he’s a total a-hole. It annoys us to listen to yet another interview in which he slightly mocks the journalist for asking a question to which no one could know the answer. We marvel at his ability to manage his reputation on the biggest stage in the biggest city.

But, that’s not why I went to the game. It doesn’t matter.

Jeter’s parents were at the game. One would expect them to be at their son’s special night. But, they’re almost always at his games, even the ones that don’t matter that much. Sitting together. Sometimes with his friends, his girlfriends, his sister and nephew too. You could say sure, it’s easy for them to go because they have the money to be there. You would be right. But how many times have you seen other star players’ parents at a game? Jeter talks about his parents always being a positive force in his life. How they instilled in him a sense of optimism and the ability to shun negativity. It’s easy to see the impact they had on his life.

When he’s on the field, Derek Jeter doesn’t live in the past or the future. He forgets his failures and doesn’t hope that tomorrow will be different. His greatness is that he’s always in the moment.

A final tip of the cap.

A final tip of the cap.

I went to the game with my dad. We’ve gone to many games before, but none as special as this one. Maybe we’ll see 30 more games together, maybe we won’t. We hope to do a three-generation game with my sons in the future, but maybe it won’t happen.

We yelled. We laughed. We jumped up and down. We rooted for a man that we’ll never meet who plays a game at a level we’ll never understand.

We had a blast.

We had a moment.

It mattered.

4 replies »

  1. Moving…really beautifully written…and your dad is still talking about what an incredible time he had at the game.

    On Tuesday, October 7, 2014, Man on Third wrote: > scribblerEditor posted: “Hi everyone, I’m back. It has been a while and I missed you all. More than that, I missed writing. I’m sitting here now on a United Airlines flight on the way back to San Francisco after witnessing history. I saw Derek Jeter’s last game at Yankee Stadium.” >

  2. Nice piece and dead on about Jeter. As a St. Louisan, I don’t care for the Yankees, but Jeter is one of those guys you couldn’t help but root for. He was so steady and someone you could point out to your kid and say, “watch how number 2 plays tonight.”

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