It started back in 1992, when the Yankees drafted Jeter 6th overall. Many scouts had doubted Jeter’s ability to play in the pros. Jeter was drafted behind Phil Nevin, now a yankee bench coach, Paul Sheuy, B.J Wallace, Jeffrey Hammonds and Chad Mottola. Jeter was scouted by Dick Groch, when told he signed a “good player” Groch would respond “No, I signed a Franchise.” But what makes Jeter so special? Hmm let’s do this one step at a time.
On May 29th 1995 Jeter would debut against the Seattle Mariners, he would go 0-5. He’d play 14 more games after that, with the Yankees finally making the playoffs and being knocked out, ironically by the same Mariners. It also ended an era. Don Mattingly was retiring after a long and memorable career. But the team needed a shift. They needed a leader. They needed a young kid, from Kalamazoo, Michigan. They had guys already there with talent. Guys like John Wettland, Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neil. Yankees would also have a huge fusion of youth. Along with Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada would also come up and help take the Yankees to the next level. However in 1996 only one of them won Rookie of the Year. That season Jeter went on to win the ROY award by hitting .314 with a 183 hits and 10 home runs with 78 RBI’s. Jeter would also go on to make his first All-Star Game, he would hit .324 that season finish with 203 hits 19 home-runs and 84 RBI’s. Also led the American League in runs with 127. And led the Yankees to a World Series title. He would also finish that season 3rd in the MVP voting, 1999 was much of the same another year another All-Star appearance, and another World Series title. This year however Jeter would lead the league in hits with 219 and hit a career high .349. Also a career high in home runs with 24 and rbis with 102 … as a lead off man…let this sink in, if that didn’t make you nod your head in appreciation there’s something wrong!
In 2000 Jeter repeated this same success, All-Star Game, World Series crown, 200 hits, .339 average. This season also saw Jeter make history. As the first player to win the World Series MVP and All-Star game MVP. 2000’s season will be highlighted by his lead off home run against cross town rival, the New York Mets Bobby Jones, which would kill all momentum for the Mets. However Jeter’s greatest highlights would start adding a different nickname.
Jeter would make the all star game again in 2001, he would also end that season hitting .311 21 home runs and 74 rbis’s. But this is where Jeters’s playoff resume begins to add to his legacy. On October 13th, in Oakland in a pivotal game. Shane Spencer’s throw from the right field wall missed cut off man, Tino Martinez. Normally that ball would bounce an extra 3 or 4 hops and then roll to Jorge Posada. Luckily enough Derek Jeter on this day executed one of the smartest baseball plays ever made. We now call it “The Flip.”
2001 however during all of this time was bittersweet. On September 11th America would be attacked by a terrorist group, known as Al Qaeda. 2 Air planes would be flown right into both trade centers in the middle of New York City. The country was mourning, New York was mourning just a little more. Families lost loved ones, friends were gone. Rightfully all major sports organizations stopped. Everything stopped. Just a month later. In the biggest stage of them all Derek Jeter once again made history. First major league game ever played in the month of November. First pitch he saw, hit it over the fence. Crowning him Mr.November. Yankeee would go on to lose that World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks. But that moment lives on and Jeter even for a day made not just Yankee fans, or baseball fans forget what they were mourning. But all of America. It was a national sign that “Hey, were gonna get through this.”
However Derek Jeter’s true legend, and career is defined in one word, “Captain.” Derek Jeter was announced the Yankee captain on June 3rd 2003, after Don Mattingly retired in 1995. Derek Jeter always played the game with a passion, and leadership that the team could not help but follow. His guidance and thrill for the big moment never went away, whether it was running into the stands to catch a blooper against the Boston Redsox, bloodying up his face. Or whether it was coming back and getting hit number 3000 on a home run on a “Jetertarian” swing. Or maybe it’s getting a walk off hit on his final game at Yankee stadium.
What’s my favorite Jeter moment? There’s two actually. The first one was the last home game of the old Yankee Stadium. Jeter gave a speech telling the fans of New York that he wants us to continue the honor and tradition of the Yankees across the street. The most recent was his final game at Yankee Stadium, after the game he walked out to shortstop where he stood for 19 seasons before, and just soaked in what he loved. The game, the Yankees and most importantly us! No matter the obstacles Jeter overcame them all in New York. Jeter has had a lot of nicknames over the years, DJ, Captain, Captain Clutch, Mr.November…eh all sound kind of over used. I do have a new one..Mr.Cooperstown. Thanks for the memories Jete!