As Derek Jeter goes for 3000 this week – I’m heartened with the fact that it will happen at the ballpark in the Bronx – it should. Something this momentous should not occur anywhere else. As lifelong Yankee fans, we’ve been blessed with one memorable moment after the next. This one is special is many ways. Not the least of which is because the man (number 2) will notch out his corner of Cooperstown as a great Yankee, and undeniably as one of baseball’s best.
I can still hear the echoes from jealous Mets fans clamoring to diminish Jeter as a second rate shortstop, “not even the best in New York”. And what about those Boston fans chanting how over-rated Jeter is.
The ponderous New York media continues beating the “he’s getting old” drum. Even I, after attending a spring training game earlier this year, announced that he looked, “a step slower”. Yes, he is getting older, (who isn’t), and yes his average and slugging percentages aren’t what they used to be. But who would you rather have? Who, in the history of the game has had the career he has. Think about what he has done, what the teams around him have accomplished, and in those terms I was wrong; say whatever you need to make your point and sound more clever than the next guy – Derek Jeter is a great baseball player, period. He is (has always been) a great Yankee, and perhaps as time goes by, he will be heralded (dare I say it) as the greatest Yankee of our modern era. Even greater than my ultimate hero Thurman Munson? I’ve never seen Mantle play, I know Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio are the greatest to put on the pinstripes, but I have watched every game of Munson’s and Jeter’s careers – no one will replace Munson on my list – but I have to make one note – I’ve never seen a better Yankee than Derek Jeter. As time goes by, as it has with Munson, any thoughts of Jeter’s short-comings will only diminish and all of those the great at bats, unbelievable plays in the field and his leadership as captain will remain.My memories of Munson and of all other Yankee moments are precious to me, I want to hold them tight against my chest and let my heart soak them up – not content to let go until I’m sure I’ll never forget. I will watch the next few nights in the Bronx – I will soak up every pitch – watch Derek and cringe with each swing and miss, hold my breath with each pepper of the ball – and then (when the 3000th hit is recorded) I will smile as broadly as everyone else and hold the moment against my chest – knowing that I’ve just been given yet another once in a life time moment that only Yankee fans get. I’ll notch that memory in my noggin and in my heart and forever take it with me as long as I live.
Good luck – Jete!
Swing, batter-batter-batter-, swing!