Derek Jeter, the iconic shortstop and captain of the New York Yankees, announced his retirement on Thursday via a post on his Facebook page. After missing most of the 2013 season due to a gruesome ankle injury, the statement did not come as a total surprise.
“I know it in my heart,” Jeter said. “The 2014 season will be my last year playing professional baseball.”
Jeter has always been a player who led with his heart. His passion for the game is evident in his work ethic and attitude toward those who came before him in Yankee pinstripes like Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson and Joe DiMaggio. Every time he takes the field or speaks to the media, he exhibits the utmost professionalism and class, without making enemies the way other players of his caliber have done.
Jeter is always in touch with the fan base. Growing up as a Yankee fan in Kalamazoo, Mich., he understands why fans of the club are among some of the most competitive and intense in all of sports.
“N.Y. fans always pushed me to be my best,” he said. What sets him apart from so many others is how he translates that on to the field.
Over the course of his career, Jeter has earned the well-deserved nickname Captain Clutch. His heroics in the postseason are some of the most extraordinary stories in Yankees lore (see his play in the 2001 American League Division Series and the 2001 World Series, which galvanized New York after 9/11). He has the most postseason hits of any player in history with 200. The next closest is former teammate Bernie Williams with 128. Jeter’s record may have also been influenced by the number of postseason games he has played in, as he went to the playoffs every season from 1996 to 2012, with the exception of 2008.
In a game against the Boston Red Sox in 2004, Jeter inadvertently created a symbol for his commitment to winning. In the game, without regard for life and limb, Jeter ran after a fly ball near the stands, caught the ball at full speed and went flying into the second row of stands down the left field line. He came out of the fray bloodied and further endeared himself to the Yankee faithful as they roared with love and approval.
Jeter owns the record for most hits in Yankee history with 3,316 and has a chance to move up the all-time list if he is able to stay healthy this season (he currently stands in 10th place). He also stands in 13th place in runs scored with 1,876. In short, he is a definite Hall of Famer when his turn arises and the numbers undoubtedly bear that out.
For Yankee fans like myself and for baseball fans in general, I suggest that you pay close attention to Derek Jeter in action during the final season of his career. It may be a while until we see another like him.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 18 print edition. Chris Marcotrigiano is deputy sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.