Still a Class Act(Photos by Gary Quintal)
Derek Jeter gives his preliminary goodbye in the Bronx
By Rich Mancuso
BRONX, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 8- The assumption is Derek Jeter will be on the field at Yankee Stadium for the last time as an active player in three weeks because the Yankees in all probability will miss the postseason for a second straight year. So on Sunday afternoon the Yankees gave him a fitting and preliminary goodbye tribute.
You can say that the Yankees gave him an early
goodbye retirement party in order to keep fans in the stands and to profit on Jeter commemorative patches, shirts, and anything that sells with his name. The good thing is the Yankees and their fans still have Derek Jeter for another three weeks.
And for the next 21 games, assuming Jeter plays everyday, he will still be here. As he did so many times over an illustrious 20-year career he answered every question. Jeter never turned down an interview for a daily newspaper reporter, or for that matter someone who was not seen often on the Yankees beat writing for a weekly publication.
And as much as we all want Jeter to reevaluate his decision about retiring from the game of baseball, one that that places him among the greats, it will becomemore difficult to say goodbye.
Because it is always difficult saying goodbye to a New York sports icon, and Derek Jeter may have been more than that.
“Today you think about it about all the things that are being said, but today I was trying not to think about it,” Jeter said about closure from the game, and that there are still games to played with his team having an outside chance to be that second wild card team.
He added, “Fortunately there is a little more time.” The hope was always that this final season would result in the Yankees going to another postseason and to do it for the Captain.
But the Yankees from the onset of this season havenever been able to resemble a playoff team. As it was again on Jeter’s day, they failed to score runs and were shutout for a second time in three games by the central division leading Kansas City Royals.
Said Jeter about his day after he came off the playing field, “It was awesome, something I will always remember. The Yankee know how to throw big ceremonies. This is a day I will remember forever.”
He thanked the fans on the field and again when he met the media in the Yankees press conference room. Jeter has never been comfortable speaking about this farewell to baseball, but those extended family of fans made it easier.
“Anyone who is here today, anyone who is at homewatching, anyone who has ever been over the course, over the last 20 seasons, thank you very much. You guys have watched me grow up over the last 20 years. I've watched you, too. Some of you guys are getting older, too. I want to thank you for helping me feel like a kid the last 20 years.”
Jeter was surprised by a few of the dignataries that showed up for his day, including another world champion he has associated with over the years, Michael Jordan, who knows something about farewell tours, saying thank you to the hometown fans and about being a good teammate, and leader on numerous championship teams.
“I appreciate it. I did not go into any expectations,” Jeter said. This retirement tour of ballparks has been different from the one Mariano Rivera received last year. Jeter is an everyday player as Rivera continued to become baseball’s all-time closer.
Jordan offered some advice, along with Dave Winfield and another legend, Cal Ripkin Jr. who all have been a part of the Derek Jeter legacy in one way or another.
“He’s prepared for this, he chose to step away from the game,” said Jordan. “His knowledge of the game is strong, he’s going to sit down with his family and think his next step.”
Jeter wants to move on with his life beyond baseball. He will be financially secure enough that could one day keep him in the game of baseball as an owner or in another capacity. Whatever he does, regardless, it will be successful.
On the field an era is coming to an end. The Yankees “Core Four” of Jeter, Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte has come to an end and there may never be another four similar in the years to come.”
“It was very strange kind of a different situation with three weeks left, a unique situation kind of tough to explain,” Jeter said about the ceremonial day in his honor. “At the same time, I am still trying to play a game.”
And at the same time, and as the days dwindle to a precious few it will harder to say goodbye to Derek Jeter.