I’m not a treasure trove of baseball trivia, but I’m a big fan of the game. I watched the entire 2004 series featuring an epic and excruciating battle between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. I was hugely pregnant with my first child (due in November 2004), so vegging out on the sofa watching other people’s awesomeness was all I could muster.
I especially loved the Yankees that year (Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, A-Rod — yes, A-Rod) and, in stark contrast, I detested the Red Sox. Maybe it was because Big Papi couldn’t stop crushing home runs or because Manny Ramirez owned one of the most disgusting batting helmets ever in the history of helmets. Jeter was, of course, my favorite player. There was just
something everything special about his uniform him. He was a legit superstar. And the fact that he was humble made him a hero.
Today I have two young boys and one of them plays baseball. He just graduated from tee ball into coach pitch, but this is Texas, so sports are very competitive, even at a ridiculously young age. It’s like real baseball, people. He has a mini athletic cup, little cleats, custom bats, batting gloves, practice every week, scrimmages and we travel to play weekend tournaments. It’s a family affair. More importantly, baseball gives us endless opportunities to teach him about building character.
Forget the athleticism and the physical development – capabilities at the age of six are impressive, but rather silly to worry about. What he gets to experience and learn first-hand is how to be a supportive teammate, a positive thinker, a person who perseveres and a good listener. He grows and improves daily, which is great, but he’s also learning to take the knocks and the tough calls in stride, which is necessary. As a mom, I need my arsenal of “perfect athlete” pep talks in the pipeline and ready to go. Enter Derek Jeter.
Me: “Everyone strikes out. Even Derek Jeter.”
Me: “Don’t worry about dropping that fly ball. Even Derek Jeter drops a ball once in a while.” Okay, that is a lie.
Me: “I’m sure Derek Jeter has spilled red Gatorade on his pants too. We can wash that out later…”
Derek Jeter has held up his end of the bargain by remaining hero-worthy. Jeter gives us the chance to teach our children how to be athletes by example. What a novel idea, right? Based on the news clips flooding ESPN right now, it seems as though our heroes are falling from grace daily. Unlike those clowns, Jeter understands that the term is aspirational, not ass-pirational. Whether you love him or hate him, you have to agree that Jeter has been steadfast to the end. He is retiring with the stardom he earned. He is retiring with grace. He is retiring with dignity.
On behalf of new baseball moms everywhere who are desperately trying to raise respectable young men, thank you Derek Jeter…
Our trip to Globe Life Park in Arlington this summer to see Jeter’s farewell tour: