Editor’s Note: Author Andy Salgado was kind enough to offer his insights after attending Derek Jeter’s final spring game in Tampa. Andy writes for one of our sister sites, Marlin Maniac on the Fansided Network. Follow Andy’s work by clicking here. We at Yanks Go Yard wish to thanks not only Andy, but the editors of Marlin Maniac for allowing Andy to contribute to our site with this piece. ~BB
The Captain. You can say those two words to any baseball fan out there and they know who you are talking about. Derek Jeter. In February when Derek announced that 2014 would be his last season, fans scrambled to grab tickets to games to see Mr. November play his last season. On March 28 and 29 the city of Tampa got to bid a Spring Training farewell to this Yankee great.
I married into a Yankees family. Even though I never followed the Yankees that closely, I was always in awe of how great of a player Derek was. When my wife found out that Derek was playing the Marlins at George M. Steinbrenner Field, who was I to say no to her? This was maybe the last time she would get to see Derek play live.
We grabbed my friend who has also been a Yankees fan his entire life, piled into the car and made the 2 hour drive down to Tampa from Orlando. It was fitting that the giveaway for that game was the 1996 World Series Replica Ring- Derek’s first full year with the Yankees and the start of the Yankees dynasty in which he was so instrumental. The stadium was packed as everyone waited for Derek to come out. When the lineup was read: “Batting 2nd and playing shortstop number 2 Derek Jeter”, the place went crazy. After the National Anthem it was time to play ball.
When the players came out onto the field you could see from the stands all the camera lights go off, and hear all the cell phone camera click noises taking pictures of Derek. Every time he picked up the ball and threw it to first *click* *click* *click* was seen and heard. Derek didn’t see any action that in the top of the 1st, but the fans didn’t stop chanting his name that entire inning.
When he came up to bat in the bottom it was the same- the cheers, the clapping, and respect the fans showed him was amazing. Out came the cameras and every pitch was *flash* *flash* *flash*! Then the chants, “DE-REK JE-TER *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* DE-REK JE-TER *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* DE-REK JE-TER *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP*” that went on for his entire at bat. He struck out but the fans didn’t care, they still cheered him on. Derek finally got some defensive action in the 3rd when he got a ground a ball and flipped it to Brian Roberts for the final out of the inning. The place went crazy again. DE-REK JE-TER *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* DE-REK JE-TER *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP*.
In the 4th, Derek came up to bat once again and the same thing happened as the first time. Out came the cameras and every pitch was *flash* *flash* *flash*! Then the chants, “DE-REK JE-TER *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* DE-REK JE-TER *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* DE-REK JE-TER *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP*” that went on for his entire at bat. When he drew the walk the cheers got even louder. This was the last time The Captain got on base in his final spring training.
What made this game so much fun for me, was listening to all the stories of the fans around me talking about Derek. “I was sitting right over there when Derek played his first spring training game here.” “I was at the game when Derek flipped that ball home.” “I was at the Mr. November game.” “I saw Derek play in the rookie league.” The admiration all the fans had for him was very touching. They were all talking and asking each other “What is your favorite Derek moment?” “Which World Series of his did you love most?” “Where were you when Derek hit 3,000?” These fans loved their Captain and will miss him so much.
Up came the 6th inning and this was Derek’s last inning ever at spring training. In the top of the inning, Derek saw no action. When Derek came up to bat in the bottom of the inning the chants started up again. “DE-REK JE-TER *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* DE-REK JE-TER *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* DE-REK JE-TER *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP*” and the cameras went off again. Derek grounded out to the second baseman and that was it for Derek. The fans stood up and cheered for Derek as they all had a feeling that this would be it for him this game.
In the top of the 7th when they announced that Dean Anna was coming in for Derek, the crowd sighed in disappointment and then stood up and cheered again for The Captain. Thank you Derek for 20 amazing years! This ended up being Derek’s last spring training game.
March 29, 2014 was supposed to be Derek’s last game, but the rain kept that from happening. I like to think it was the Tampa sky crying a little bit because they weren’t going to be able to see Derek play anymore.
At first it started to clear up, but as soon as they announced the starting lineup it started to pour again after Derek’s name was called. The crowd went crazy when his name was called and the skies opened up again. Not a single person was leaving. After the lineup was read we waited a few minutes. Then the video screen played a video. The video was highlights of Derek’s career form his time in the rookie league to last year. There was not a dry eye around me. The crowd went nuts “DE-REK JE-TER *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* DE-REK JE-TER *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* DE-REK JE-TER *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP*.” After the video, some Tampa residents were on the field when the announcer called Derek out to the field. The crowd cheered and clapped when Derek came out from the dugout. The City of Tampa presented Derek with a key to the city. The fans were louder than the thunder going on in the background and louder than the fireworks that went off for Derek. He tipped his hat to the crowd and returned to the dugout; it was his final curtain call. At 1:18 the game was called due to weather.
It’s going to be weird next spring for Yankees’ fans in Tampa. For the first time in a long time, The Captain will not be lacing up his cleats, tarring up his bat, grabbing his glove, and stepping out to the field. But for these past 2 days the City of Tampa and Yankees’ fans made it known that even though this was his finale, they will never forget their Captain.