When I got home from school today, the first thing I did was whip out my phone to see what was crack-a-lacking on Twitter, because that’s what I always do when I get home (shuddup). As I scrolled down my feed, it took me about eight Derek Jeter tweets to realize that something was happening with regards to, ya know, Derek Jeter.
When I first realized that the reason the Captain was trending on Twitter was that he announced he’s retiring after the upcoming season, I almost felt stunned.
There’s no reason the news should be surprising. Derek Jeter is coming up on his 40th birthday, played in a mere 17 games in 2013 due to injuries, and inked a one-year deal with the Yankees in the fall. So, the signs were there that ’14 might be the end of road for Derek. But for me, the news still took a little while to digest.
As someone born in 1995 and whose baseball memory doesn’t really extend too far back beyond 2000, Derek Jeter is, for me, baseball. Baseball is Derek Jeter. The two are as inextricable as Coney Island and hot dogs (keeping with the New York theme). I fell in love with baseball at a time when Derek Jeter was the face of the sport, much in the same way Jordan became the face of basketball a decade earlier. My first baseball video game was All Star Baseball 2000 for Game Boy Color (which remains the best baseball game ever made). It had Derek Jeter on the cover, of course. Jeter was branded relentlessly throughout my childhood. The guy was on everything–video games, batting gloves, shaving ads, you name it. 15 years later, he’s still on everything. His name is ubiquitous, his game universally exalted.
Even growing up a Red Sox fan, you had to respect #2. He was magic in the field, in the batter’s box, and on the basepaths. The Yankees were always good and Jeter was always playing and playing well.
When you slice through the years of Jeter’s career–a career that started in 1995, the year I was born– the numbers and accolades speak for themselves: five championships, 13 All Star appearances, five gold gloves, and many, many hits (3,316). His career has been a categorically brilliant one.
But the biracial angel has always been as much a legend as a player. Jeter represented the MLB of the 2000’s. So what if his advanced stats didn’t live up to his reputation? Or that he wasn’t roided out of his mind? (Well, we don’t think he was.) The guy had it all from my perspective: a sexy batting stance, a charming smile, and dat backhand.
When I was younger, I did my duty as a Sox fan. If you asked me about Jeter, I’d inform you that his last name was actually ‘cheater’ and he was overrated (he probably was). But the guy always was, and still is, a winner, a baller, and an icon. When the 2015 baseball season begins, it will be weird knowing that Derek Jeter won’t be suiting up in pinstripes.
Baseball won’t be exactly the same without Jeter. This year, I’ll be sure to take advantage of my chances to watch the dude when I can. And maybe I’ll even give All Star Baseball 2000 a whirl. For old time’s sake.