so, i realize that its december, not exactly baseball season. but, the truth does not descriminate about times or seasons. and, at such a time as this, the truth must be told.
i have been an avid baseball fan since about 1987, minus a couple years in the 90's after the strike when i was disappointed and frustrated. but, like the rest of the world, i returned in 98 to see the steroid slammers pound baseball back into our hearts. over the course of the last almost 20 years, i have followed many baseball players and kept up on their stats. i used to study the back of baseball cards like i would find words of life there. i knew whether players were better hitters in daylight or under the lights. i could tell you certain players birthdays. i say all this to say that i have been a huge baseball fan. and in all that time, with all the players i have followed, if i had to pick the most gracious, most humble player i have ever seen, it would be derek jeter.
the above picture is from a game we attended in yankee stadium. this one is from when he was hurt and playing for the trenton thunder. we got to see him from right behind home plate.
in a market where every little word can be blown out of proportion, every move is magnified and every mistake is turned into a monumental breakdown, that is, in new york, it isn't easy to be a star. but derek does it with grace. he is the consummate teammate. he is supportive of his teammates, never, EVER, saying anything bad about them, no matter how much the press baits him. he is generous with his praise of other teams, never showing a kind of cockiness that it would seem natural for him to have. his parents attend almost all of his games, and he stays well grounded with them. he prefers to spend his time in the clubhouse teaching the younger players, and helping them deal with the pressures of playing in new york. he shows respect. and dignity. and integrity. i have seen him make tough decisions. i have seen him handle very difficult circumstances. i have never seen a more gracious, less conceited ball player in my life. and that would be saying something even if he were a run-of-the-mill average player. but he isn't. he nearly won the mvp this year. he has pretty good numbers, year after year. but more than numbers, he is clutch. he is easy to hate if you aren't a yankee fan, because he always seems to come through for the yanks in the big moment. when its the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and hope dwindling, count me in as one of the ones who wants derek jeter at the plate. for two reasons. first of all, he may just give you that miracle. he seems to do it time after time. there is just something about him. but secondly, and more importantly, if and when he fails, he will do it with grace and honor. he will hold his head up and admit defeat and congratulate the winner. he will represent the very essence of sportsmanship. when i see my son growing up and playing sports, if i want to hold for him an example of how to work hard, how to have fun, how to treat other players on your team and other teams, how to win and how to lose, i will tell him about derek jeter.
derek making a famous catch against the red sox. we were in new york at the time, but had gone to the game before this one.