By the time this is posted, this moment will be long past. But right now, I’m sitting on my couch, my brother’s cat meowing for me to feed her, having just watched Derek Jeter’s last hit in the MLB. It marked the end of a 20 year career for Jeter, as he is officially retired from baseball after today’s (September 28) game. Of course, with the retiring of a legend, there has been much to-do about Jeter’s career—where he ranks in baseball’s glorious history, what his mark will be, what he’ll do next. It’s a time of reflection for baseball fans, and I can’t help but wonder if Jeter is as impressed by his own career as we all are.
Jeter was drafted out of high school, sixth overall (in 1992, the year I was born). He spent about two years in the minor leagues before being called up at the ripe old age of twenty. Now he’s retiring twenty years later, and there are so many remarkable things about it. He’s spent his entire career, from minors to majors, as a Yankee. His career batting average is .310, with 260 homeruns and 544 doubles. The man has simply been one of the best baseball players of our generation, and one of the best ball players ever.
But while all his stats are incredible, that’s not the reason why fans will miss him so much, why everyone celebrates the bittersweet moment of his retirement, why he will always be remembered with awe and respect. Jeter has been an honorable player, a noble ambassador of the game. That’s not to say he’s been perfect, but he has always conducted himself and treated others with respect and integrity. Coaches love him, players love him, and fans love him because he is as good a teammate and role model as he is a ball player. He is a reminder and an example that talent (of which Jeter has plenty) is no substitute for character, and the true heroes of baseball possess both.
The Yankees will miss their captain. New York will miss him, baseball will miss him, we will miss him. But Jeter can retire knowing that he has done remarkable things for the game of baseball, and that even though his playing days are over, baseball will always be there for him. And he will always be there for kids playing in Little League parks across the world.