As the season dwindles down, I’m not even sure that the Yankees will even make it to October. Even though they are only a mere 4.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot, there are too many teams the Yanks find themselves against.
I’m not giving up hope, but right now I’m giving myself a chance to reflect. Derek Jeter won’t be back next season. Not only are we losing the Captain, but I personally am losing a legend. An inspiration. I am losing the motivation behind the way I’ve lived my life.
People can say that one person cannot define you, especially one that you don’t know personally. But that’s what Derek Jeter did for me: he defined me and he molded my mind and heart into a die-hard baseball lover. He was the reason I started playing softball and how I started enjoying the sport for “the love of the game.” Imagine him doing that for me, even though I had no idea who he was as an actual human being. But the first day I saw Jeter play, I knew that baseball was my sport. Little did I know, it would become my passion when it came to writing.
That never-say-die and team attitude he would exude, before a big game or even after a heart-breaking loss…THAT was what I wanted to bring into my own life. Throughout my softball career, I demanded the number 2 be represented on my back. Because each game I played, I wanted to bring a little bit of Jeter to it. It could be from an amazing, Jeter-esque play at shortstop (which I played in the first seven years of my career, which wasn’t all too impressive) or simply from giving it my all while chugging down the first baseline on even a simple grounder to second.
I’ve gotten the opportunity to see some of the highlight reels that will be shown decades later and I’ll be telling my kids and grandkids about the Legend known as Derek Jeter. It’s one thing to see these highlights on the top ten plays, but its another to have physically been there to watch the magic unfold live. The flip in Oakland. The Mr. November home run. The face-first dive into the stands against Boston. The 300th hit. All of them, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. The hustle. The emotions, the chills, the pure elation. I remember it all. And that’s what made me inspire to work like Jeter.
Win or lose, Jeter always handled himself in front of the media and his teammates. He always flashed a smile and faced the media. He always took the media questions beyond his own performance and onto his teammates, putting their impressive performances in the spotlight. That was Jeter. And that’s why I fell in love with the sport of baseball.
It wasn’t about winning all the time, although the Yankees did that a lot. Watching Derek Jeter come up and make a splash in the majors, he proved that being a good teammate and having a good attitude can go a long way, especially when you are scrutinized under the New York microscope. If Jeter can handle himself and play for the love of the game in a brutal town like New York City, I can get over the fear that I don’t think I’m good enough.
Maybe I wasn’t good enough. Maybe I’ll never be at the caliber of Jeter or Hall of Famers, but that never stopped me from playing because it is what I love to do, ever since I was six years old. A college graduate, I play slow-pitch softball now in Friday night leagues. The same competition? Of course not. But every time I step out on that dusty infield, I feel that surge of energy. That love of the game. And I’ll play, no matter how good or bad I am.
So my one word for #2 is Thanks. I am thankful for his presence on the New York Yankees. I am thankful that he showed me what the love of the game looks like and I thank him for showing me that dreams never die. Thanks to Jeter, I know what career I want to pursue and I know never to give up. Even after 56 errors in his first season in the minors, he trudged on. He overcame those obstacles and worked harder to prove that he was a force to be taken seriously. He had a dream and never quit until he reached his goal, and then he tried ever harder to be his best. I have a dream and I will write for professional sports because that is what I love. And when you love something, you never walk away.
Jeter may be walking away from the Yankees lineup, but he’ll never walk away from the game of baseball. You see that look in his eyes when he tips his cap to the crowd? That look is love. And that love is for the team, the fans and the game of baseball.
Thank you, Captain. Just remember, these 20 seasons may have been a dream come true for you, but you’ve also inspired children all over the world to realize that it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you play for the love of the game.
Farewell Captain. #2 will always be my idol.
Image courtesy of CBS New York (http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2014/07/20/yankees-ny-post-article-on-jeter-game-ticket-price-hike-untrue/)