By MATT COX – SPORTS SECTION EDITOR
For the first time since 1995, Derek Jeter is no longer a Major League Baseball (MLB) player. However, just because Jeter will not be wearing the New York Yankee pinstripes anymore doesn’t mean that he will not continue to affect the game after his retirement. In typical fashion of “The Captain,” he ended his final game at Yankee Stadium in thrilling form.
After pinch-runner Antoan Richardson was bunted over to second by Brett Gardner, the stage was set. It was the bottom of the ninth, a tie game, and Jeter at the plate.
On the first pitch he saw, Jeter drove the ball through the right side of the infield, as he did so many times in his career. However, this time was in his last at bat at Yankee Stadium. A walk-off single; it was the final page in a storybook career.
Success is not a stranger to Jeter. In fact during his senior year at Kalamazoo Central High School, he won several prestigious national awards, including: the American High School Coaches Association 1992 “High School Player of the Year, the 1992 Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year, and USA Today’s “High School Player of the Year.” He was drafted sixth overall in the 1992 MLB draft and was the first high school player taken in that year’s draft.
Jeter then progressed through the minors and continued to be a standout player. By 1994, he was named the Minor League Player of the Year. He made his major league debut in 1995 and become a permanent fixture at shortstop for the Yankees in 1996, which he held until retirement this season.
It is amazing that Jeter was able to hold the starting job at arguably the most significant position on the field for so long, as the average rookie can only expect to spend 4.3 years in the majors. Through a Hall of Fame work ethic and tireless mentality that he was able to secure his spot.
“Jeter held on to his role with the Yankees by being a consistent player. He was never the best player in baseball or even arguably at his position, but his steady performance and championship pedigree kept him in his spot,” sophomore Alex Edwards said.
During his first full season in New York, Jeter wasted no time in showing the world the caliber of player he was.
He batted an outstanding .314, while the league average was .270 that season, and won the American League (AL) Rookie of the Year. Over the course of his 20-year career Jeter would compile five Gold Glove awards, five Silver Slugger awards, five World Series rings, and was a 14-time All Star.
Many fans believe that Jeter will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. He is the all time hits leader for a franchise that boasts names such as Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle (all of which are in the Hall of Fame).
With 3,465 hits Jeter currently sits at sixth on the all time hits list, all of the members of the top ten in all time hits are in the Hall of Fame, excluding Pete Rose who was banned from baseball due to gambling.
In fact, many around the Major League Baseball community, including Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, believe that Jeter could be the first baseball player to be unanimously voted into the prestigious group of former players. Jeter will be eligible for admission in the 2019 voting cycle.
Jeter leaves baseball fans with more than an excellent career, he has been a part of some of the most iconic plays in major league history, including the backhand flip to Posada during Game three of the 2001 American League Division Series (ALDS).
“He dedicated his career not only to baseball, but to the New York Yankees. He was a dependable player and teammate who always gave 100 percent of his effort both on and off the field. All of these characteristics contribute to him being the legend that he is known to be,” sophomore Jessika Young said.
The game undoubtedly loses something special with the retirement of Derek Jeter; he was a once in a generation talent.
“Without Jeter the game loses a one of a kind SS [shortstop]. He was a guy that could do everything in the field as well as at the plate. There’s few other guys in the league of that pedigree and won’t be for a long time. With free agency so prevalent, the game lost who might be the last first ballot guy to play for one team his whole career,” senior Joe LaRocco said.
There are some moments in sports that parents will pass along to their children, and Derek Jeter provided quite a few of those occasions that will become generational stories.
Those who did not have the opportunity to see him play may wish he could come back out on to the diamond for one more year. Those who were fortunate enough to see his historic career will reminisce about all the clutch performances he displayed. When 2019 rolls around, don’t be surprised to see Jeter’s name alongside all the greats and his iconic number two jersey handing in Yankee Stadium as a reminder. This is the house that Jeter built.