Derek Jeter is the name on the back of my son’s Yankees shirt. Liam laughs and squeals as he runs through the playground fountain. It doesn’t matter to him what his shirt says. He just wants to play.
Just wants to play. That’s the essential motivation for everyone in baseball, really. Jeter embodies that notion. He’s been one of my heroes for so long, and it’s with great melancholy that I watch him finish his career. Every writer in baseball is waxing poetic about The Captain right now, so why shouldn’t I join them?
“I think I’ve had enough Derek Jeter for the next 80 lifetimes.”
~ Drew Magary, The Hater’s Guide to Derek Jeter, Deadspin.com
Well, okay, not every writer. In fact, Jeter’s been under fire from all angles lately. Wainwright and Groove-gate. Accusations that he stole time from memorializing Tony Gwynn and Don Zimmer at the All-Star Game. Vitriol. Jealousy. Hate. At least Magary is honest about it.
It’s comforting, I suppose, that my son isn’t the only one who doesn’t know The Captain. I’d say these folks should know better if I didn’t know they were just looking for attention.
Railing against Derek Jeter for grooved pitches, or “stealing spotlights,” or whatever else is ill-informed at best. He didn’t ask for any of that, it’s been projected upon him. That says more about his accusers than The Captain.
Yes, I would have liked to see more time devoted to Don Zimmer and Tony Gwynn, and Derek would have too. That wasn’t how it worked out, but that’s not the The Captain’s fault. You also cannot blame Jeter for Wainwright’s decision. He didn’t ask for that. But if it’s served up on a plate, how can you not take the cut? He’s conditioned to do just that.
“If you’re going to play at all, you’re out to win. Baseball, board games, playing Jeopardy, I hate to lose.” ~ Derek Jeter
But my son doesn’t know who he is. He won’t remember seeing him play, and will only hear about what he meant to the Yankees. Anytime he watches Derek Jeter, it will be old footage, or an interview with an old man. This makes me sad.
Through The Captain, I will try to teach my son about dedication. About striving to be the best. Of when a mantle of great responsibility is placed upon your shoulders, to handle it with class and dignity. Play hard, leave it all on the field, and never give up.
When it comes to the Yankees, it is easier to play for the team on the front of the jersey because there is no name on the back. But that is how you should play for any team. This philosophy not only works in sports, but in life. Team. Family. Loyalty. Honor. Win or lose with grace.
I have long said that some guys play for the Yankees, and some guys are Yankees. Derek Jeter isn’t just a Yankee, he’s the Yankee. Drew Magary may have had enough of Jeter for 80 lifetimes, but I could go a few hundred more. Even just one more lifetime, Liam’s.
Perhaps my son won’t be a Yankee fan. Maybe he won’t even like baseball, or any sports. That will be okay, it’s his choice. But the lessons I’ve learned from The Captain can be passed on to him regardless. My son doesn’t know who Derek Jeter is now, but he will. The Captain will still be a catalyst of the relationship of a father and son, for years after his career is over.
Fathers and sons. That’s an essential foundation of the game of baseball. Who am I to stand in the way of that?