Immediately after Derek Jeter announced that he would be retiring at the end of the 2014 season, I opened my classroom door to find four students anxiously waiting to “break” the news to me…and by that I mean they were waiting to see my devastation firsthand. Much to their dismay, I informed them that I had already seen the announcement moments earlier via the same ESPN alert as every other sports fan in America.
This is what I wanted for Jeter. After seeing him struggle to get and stay healthy for the entirety of last season and after seeing Mo leave so poetically and on his own terms, I wanted this for Jeter. I wanted one last season on his terms, with a farewell tour to boot. I wanted him to finally be able to take time to appreciate the moments as they were happening, knowing they would be his final moments – in pinstripes, in each stadium, playing with these teammates against those opponents.
But if I wanted this, why was the news that it was actually happening so paralyzing? My breathing felt a bit constricted and my mind was experiencing what I can only describe as shock. I know that sounds ridiculous to anyone who isn’t a lifelong fan of his, and I knew even in the moment that it was ridiculous to have such a strong reaction to this. I don’t know Derek Jeter. I’ll probably never meet Derek Jeter. The extent of our interaction will most likely be the wave he directed my way at Fenway when I was 16 years old. But his retirement matters to me, on a deep, personal level, and it took a few days to figure out why, but I think I did – he has been the constant in my life. Derek Jeter wearing pinstripes and the number two and being announced by Bob Sheppard and playing shortstop for the New York Yankees – that has been my constant. When everything else has changed, hurt me, enlightened me, or simply come to an end – I could still count on The Captain.
I am almost 26 years old and I’ve been a Jeter fan since the beginning of his professional career. When I was in 6th grade, my “About You” collage was made up entirely of pictures and facts about Derek Jeter. Literally, the only fact about me on the entire project was that “my favorite food is also Chicken Parmesan.” I perfected my Chicken Parmesan recipe by the age of 14 – just in case I would one day have the opportunity to cook dinner for Jeter. Yes, that is real life. But more importantly that means that Derek Jeter has been a part of my life for nearly 20 years. When elementary school ended, Jeter was shortstop for the Yankees. When I had my first kiss and my first heartbreak, Jeter was shortstop for the Yankees. When my parents divorced and my family fell to pieces when I was 15, Jeter still took the field. Through friendships made and broken and simply lost over time, Jeter was still shortstop for the Yankees. When I graduated high school and college and graduate school and even started my career, Jeter was still there. When I studied abroad, I watched Jeter win the World Series on a bus to Budapest. For the entire 6 years of my last relationship and all the hurt and healing after it ended, #2 never failed to show up. Every moment of my life that I can recall, whether it was amazing or devastating, Jeter was the constant. Now, that doesn’t mean he was actually crucial in any of those moments – far from it – but it was the thing, for me, that never changed. And across this country there are teenage boys hoping to become professional baseball players and they have never known the MLB without Jeter. There are diehard Yankees fans and baseball fans who don’t know what baseball looks like when Jeter isn’t the face of it. And that is why it matters to me, on a personal level, that Derek Jeter has announced his retirement. Through every big moment in my life, he was my constant. There is no one as reliable as Derek Jeter, ask any Yankee who has played alongside him and any fan who has avidly followed his career. I’m happy that he is retiring on his own terms and I’m proud of what he has accomplished in the past 20 years and I appreciate what he has done to save team loyalty and the face of baseball in the era of steroids, but it hurts to know this is his final year, because it is a reminder of how precious the constants in our lives really are. It is a reminder that even our constants reach their limits. So, while Jeter is appreciating his final moments this season, his fans will be appreciating their final moments with him.
Thank you #2.