The End of My Childhood: Saying Good-bye to Number 2

222506_10150241532625555_7652187_nI’m a couple months from turning 25, so technically, it’s been a while since I was actually a kid. But if you want an official bench mark, it came on Wednesday February 12th, when Derek Jeter announced he would retire at the end of this coming season. Ironically, I was in Boston when I found out about the announcement… making the blow some how harder to take.
As long as I’ve been watching the Yankees, Derek Jeter has been the toast of the town.  The final member of the core four, and my 2nd favorite Yankee (Bernie Williams being number 1), Jeter leaving means the end of a captain in New York. There’s no one left that means enough to this team to be named captain for years to come.  In fact, when he leaves, recently extended Brett Gardner will be the longest tenured player (if you take away the suspended Alex Rodriguez, and I do).
It will be hard to watch baseball without number 2 running around, out-hustling everyone. Without a member of the core four. I grew up watching Jeter. To honor the captain, I give you a taste of my favorite moments watching my favorite team over the years, featuring number 2.
My Top 10 Jeter Moments (in no particular order)
  1. The Flip – Making plays on the biggest stage… that’s what Derek Jeter has been all about. Down 2-0 to the Athletics in the 2000. When I saw the overthrow from Shane Spencer, I thought there goes the game, and maybe the series. But then a flash of white caught streaked across the infield
  2. The Dive – Talk about sacrificing your body. And your face! In a marathon event, which is the usual case against Red Sox, Jeter made a play that will live forever.  He’s known for the jump pass, but also for his ability to go back on a ball usually reserved for a left-fielder.  He ran full out to catch a ball down the left-field line, that would’ve fallen fair, and with just feet between him and the wall, he had no choice to but to launch himself, Superman style
  3. Mr. 3000 – He’s not a home run hitter. But he is the captain, so of course he did what everyone would’ve guessed was improbable. He became the 28th player in Major League History to reach the milestone, and just the 2nd to do so on a homer; former teammate Wade Boggs was the other to do so.  Adding to the mystical moment, he hit the homer against David Price, who also surrendered the single that made Jeter the Yankees all-time hits leader as well.
  4. The Speech – It came at the end of the final game at the old Yankee Stadium on September 21, 2008. He stood in the middle of the diamond, amongst his teammates, and thanked the fans for making the stadium so special. It was off the cuff perfection. He asked to bring the spirit of the team over to the new stadium. It came in Jeter’s first season not making the postseason, so the stadium closed without a final championship.  But his words did carry, and the ghosts of Yankees legends past did travel across to the new cathedral, and a year later a 27th parade was held.
  5. The Jump Pass – it’s his signature move, and it gets me every-time. They say Jeter has no range, but I can find you video after video of him in the outfield grass throwing out a runner at first. Sure a lot of it was arm strength, and sure, there are others who have played the position with more range, but if a ball was hit to him, it usually meant an out.  And he found a way to get
  6. SNL – A dress, a taco hole and teaching kids how to deal with bullies. Derek Jeter took his sarcastic sense of humor usually saved for post game comments and brought them to Saturday night. It’s still one of the best episodes ever.
  7. Mr. November – 9/11 left the country stunned. Baseball was an outlet. Down 2-1 in the World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Derek Jeter’s walk-off helped energize the city. The Yankees of course lost that series, but it will forever be my favorite World Series.  It was the only thing to make sense after something horrific that made no sense.  It happened in the bottom of the 10th Inning, with the score tied 3-3, facing Diamondbacks closer Byung-Hun Kim, jeter hit the walk-off homer, and gained the nickname.
  8. The Subway Series Lead-Off – The Mets were down 2-1 in the 2000 Subway Series, but coming off their first win, so they had some momentum.  That is until Derek Jeter stepped to the plate to start game 4.  The fans weren’t even in their seats when Jeter shut the door on any hopes of a comeback in the series. A first pitch homer gave the Yankees the lead, and was the final nail in the Yankees 3-peat.
  9. The Hustle – Every time he ran hard to first base… so technically each of the 10,614 career at-bats that didn’t end in a strike three,  because he ran hard EVERY SINGLE TIME!  And many of the previously stated moments relied on his hustle. It’s been a beautiful thing to watch.
  10. Retirement Press Conference– It said all you wanted to know about Jeter.  He said he didn’t want to even call it a “press conference” and didn’t want his teammates to waste practice time (the whole squad showed up). Every question was answered with the team in mind.  “I expect each and every year to be successful. I plan on having a good season,” Jeter said.  He wants to win another ring, and on that Jeter said, “If my expectation levels ever changed, I would have quit a long time ago.” Essentially, these quotes should be on his plaques in Monument Park and in Cooperstown.
He hasn’t had the greatest Spring Training, but who cares? He’s healthy, looks pretty good running down the line and playing the field and is set to play what we all hope is a majority of the 162 and beyond this season.
Jeter has only been active in 1 game where his team was out of contention for a playoff spot, and that just so happens to be the final game of 2008 (a win over Boston that gave Mike Mussina his first and only 20-win season). It’s just one of the remarkable facts/stats that go along with the 20-year veteran.  Here’s to hoping we see many more special moments that make me rethink this list by seasons end.
For now, I just say, thank you Derek Sanderson Jeter. Please allow me to hold on to my childhood just a little bit longer.  And good luck in 2014.
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UPDATE:
I’ve had a few days to recover from the end of an era.  It’s October 3rd, and the playoffs are underway.  And the Yankees aren’t a part of it.  Which means the Captain, number 2, Derek Jeter… is just a memory.
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It’s weird to think that two legends left the pinstripes behind without a shot at another ring, but that’s how Mariano River, and now Jeter have walked off into the sunset.  After decades of success, it’s now how anyone wanted to see it end.  Even so, we the fans, and the game of Baseball were privy to some amazing things.
Knowing Jeter’s final regular season home game would be his actual final home game was a double edged sword. We knew it was the final time to watch number 2 walk on that field, so we knew we could properly say goodbye.  But of course it meant no more postseason magic from the captain.  So what did he do?  Make a bit of magic out of the whole situation.
Big hits marked his final game, none bigger than the 9th inning walk-off hit.  The image of Derek jumping in the air as he rounded 1st will live in my head forever.  He looked like a kid just playing the game he loves.  And that’s how you should remember Derek Jeter.  He lived his childhood dream, and did it with love, dedication and poise.  It was beautiful.  It was all beautiful.
                                     Thank you number 2.
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