September 25th, 2014
I’ve got a lot of thoughts on today and what it means to Yankees fans, the city of New York, fans of Major League Baseball around the world, and myself. But since today is not Derek’s last official game, I’ll save all of the sappy stuff for Sunday. For now, I’ll just give you one of my many favorite memories of Derek Jeter.
This memory did not take place in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium or in Boston at Fenway Park. This memory did not take place at a Major League Stadium at all. This memory came at Tanner Park in Commack, New York.
The year was 2001 (I think) and I was about 12 years old. I was playing a tournament baseball game and I was playing shortstop for the North Babylon Bulldogs. Can’t remember the inning, the score, if we were winning or losing but I do remember one particular play during the game. One particular play that defined the kind of player I always envisioned myself becoming.
I’m at shortstop playing about normal depth. Kid at the plate hits a ground ball in the hole to my right. I immediately shift my feet and start running towards it. My 3rd basemen shuffles to his left to try and snag the ground ball, misses it by a few feet. There I am right behind him. I backhand the ball securely in my glove, make the transfer to my throwing hand, push off my left foot and leap in the air. At the highest point of my jump, I fire the ball to first base as I drifting towards the edge of infield dirt/outfield grass. The ball is about half way towards first base as I land back on my feet. I watch as the hitter is sprinting towards first, him not knowing if he’ll make it or not. But I knew. I knew as soon as the ball left my hand. I knew because I’v seen this exact play executed many times before in absolute perfection by the one athlete who I idolized for as long as I could remember. Derek Jeter has thrown out many players executing this very play, the Jump Throw and on that day back in 2001, so would I. The ball connects with my first basemen’s glove as the runner take 1 or two more steps as he runs through the bag. The umpire throws up his fist as he yells “out”. It was the 3rd out to be exact. I get a fantasic ovation from not only my teammates and family watching but from the opposing team and theirs families as well. I start jogging in towards our dugout as i’m high fiving all of my teammates.
That’s when I hear it. “HEY NICE PLAY JETER!”, “HEY THERE’S THE NEXT DEREK JETER”, “WHOAH LOOK OUT DEREK JETER JR.!”
Now for anyone who doesn’t know me or knew me back then, I was not a big kid at all. Very short and thin so needless to say, I didn’t look very imposing out there. Opposing players for obvious reason did not expect a lot from a small guy like me. To them it must of been an incredible accomplishment what I just pulled off. Now, I’m hearing these things as I reach the dugout. I get congratulatory high fives from my coaches, including my father. He might of been the only one who wasn’t THAT impressed only because him and I have been working on that play for years and he knew it was only a matter of time for me to execute it perfectly. Regardless, I knew how proud he was to see me make the play and record the out.
He gives me a playful pat on the head as I take a seat in the dugout. I sit back and start taking it in. Not the play really itself but the comments I received immediately following it. The fact that I had other people comparing me to Derek Jeter, even if it was only for one play, was something incredibly special. This is the guy that I idolized as a player. Everything that he did, I wanted to do. The way he hit, catch, throw, field, run. He was the guy I wanted to model myself after while on a baseball field.
I remember that moment because ever since I could remember, I’ve always did my best to carry myself like Derek Jeter has. With class, respect, and play to the best of abilities each and every game. Moments like that, that is why Derek Jeter has and will continue to have an incredible impact on my life.
Thank you Derek Jeter.