How do you know when you’ve made an impact? I mean really made an impact? Is it when thousands of fans chant your name? Maybe when you lead your team in all-time franchise hits? Or perhaps it is when another team, your rival, has nothing but positive memories of your career in pinstripes? Derek Jeter has all that and then some.
Two hundred eighty-six. That is how many times Jeter has played the Red Sox since he came into the league in 1995. He’s played the enemy to the northeast more than any other team in baseball. One would think through all the feuding, and he was there for the worst, that hatred would be how current and former Red Sox players remember him. That is clearly not so.
Mike Napoli recently put thoughts to words concerning Jeter. He said, “Growing up, he was the guy you looked at. Just the way he went about his business…he played for a big-market team, won five championships, came to the park every day and everything he did seemed to be the right way. The way he handled himself, the way he worked, a leader. It’s sad to see him go.”
Napoli is not alone in his sentiments. Daniel Nava also has fond memories of the Captain, especially when he was a rookie. Nava had difficulty staying at the major league level when he first arrived in 2010. When he finally made it, Jeter let Nava know he was proud and congratulated him on his journey. “That means a lot when it’s your first time…there were a lot of rookies and they all said the same thing, that he treated them great. That says a lot about the type of guy he is…That was a special thing for me. We all know what Derek Jeter means to the game.”
Even opposing pitchers have nothing but kind words for Jeter. Clay Buchholz has had his own interactions with Jeter, with similar results. “He’s as down to earth as it gets. For someone to be captain of that team and that franchise for as long as he was there, and being able to keep everything on an even keel and do everything as a professional, it’s something that’s pretty special…There wasn’t one person in the game that disliked him in any way.”
As Yankee fans, it is easy to love Jeter. In fact, I would argue that Jeter may even be under-appreciated. Of course Yankee fans love him, but how often do fans sit back and realize that both fans and players all across baseball hope nothing but the best for him? There are less than a handful of players in baseball that can do that. This season, the last of the “Core Four” is retiring. The Yankees last link to its dynasty will officially be gone. It will be difficult watching games without him next season, but we will all have stories of the Captain for the rest of our lives to remember.