I can’t say I’m the biggest baseball fan in the world, but you don’t need to be a Yankees fan or a baseball fan to appreciate the magnitude of Derek Jeter’s final moments at Yankees Stadium.
This past week, the sports world was essentially put on hold for Jeter’s final series at Yankee Stadium. It was all anyone was talking about on social media. ESPN was constantly talking about it. Snapchat even created a My Story to track pictures and videos people were taking during the series.
I thought everyone was blowing Jeter’s final home games a little out of proportion. This wasn’t Lou Gehrig being forced into retirement following his ALS diagnosis. This wasn’t Magic Johnson announcing he’d retire following his HIV diagnosis. This was just a star athlete retiring and moving on to the next stage of his life. What was the big deal about that?
Then, I thought about it and realized this wasn’t just any retirement. This was Derek Jeter retiring. This was not only the captain and shortstop of the Yankees retiring, but also an end of an era, as Jeter was the last active member of the great Yankees teams of the ’90s. I’m not sure if Jeter was ever considered the best player in the game at any point in his career, but he was definitely one of the biggest, if not the biggest, baseball icon of the last two decades. This was also the biggest athlete retirement of the social media era.
Along with having great on-field accomplishments, Jeter was a tremendous face for the league. In a time when we hear about high profile athletes getting into trouble off the field on the regular and following the Steroid Era when a dark cloud hung over Major League Baseball, many people were questioning whether or not athletes should be idolized by young kids. I don’t think those questions were ever raised about Derek Jeter. He was a class act on and off the field. I never heard anyone in the media say they had a problem with Jeter (except maybe in Boston), and I’m sure the parents of the millions of kids around the world who idolize him have no problem with him being their children’s hero.
After all the hype surrounding Jeter’s final games, Jeter could’ve gone hitless in the series and it still would’ve been an incredible moment for the sports world seeing him take his last steps in Yankee Stadium.
However, Jeter ended his Yankee Stadium career in the most Derek Jeter way possible. Jeter has always had a clutch gene on par with any other athlete in sports, so it was only fitting that he end the game with a walk-off single. It was a moment that seemed scripted out of a Hollywood movie. This moment wasn’t the same as John Elway riding off into the sunset with a Super Bowl victory right before his retirement, but it still felt magical. Hats off to you, Number Two. Whether he plays in the Yankees’ final series against the Red Sox, this will be the storybook ending to Jeter’s amazing storybook career.