Derek.. Jeter...... Number 2.
Bob Sheppard could not say it with any more vindication.
This was the product Bob Sheppard would present on the grandest stage in the greatest ballpark sports had ever offered. The words 'Derek Jeter' never rang more elegant. For the elegance you'll hear sounds dull, and dimly, because the words and the actions of such a player don't need much of an entrance. When they say actions speak louder than words, they also walk and visualize in the minds of generations far and beyond what the human soul can envision. Our interpretation of Derek Jeter won't ever be who he truly was on the baseball field, but his symbol is what will be the expectation that can never be reached again.
Out of the 99 years that Bob Sheppard was alive, I don't think he ever envisioned having his words outlast his lifespan. What other player do we know in the world of sports get their name introduced by someone who has passed away? The most incredible part, is that it's so fitting that we can't bare to think of it being any other way. If anybody does deserve the praise, and for anybody to have ever lived up to the hype in the way that this man has, Derek Jeter has won that honor till the day he dies, and beyond.
19 seasons with one team. The captain of the greatest sports franchise the world will ever see, in the biggest city in the world, and with the most expectations nobody will ever understand. He played and lived under a microscope so intense it could burn through a thousand phone books, and still leave a third degree burn. In a world that went from AOL to tweeting from the beginning of his career to the end, his clean and perfect lifestyle speaks for itself. His consistency is the model of excellence we all strive to grasp a sliver of in our lifetime which was something he upheld for those 19 seasons.
There will always be criticism coming his way though, and I won't be the first to exercise that capability. Derek Jeter wasn't the greatest player to ever dawn a uniform, but he also didn't do anything to stain it.
When we look back 20 years from now and recognize the significance of his legacy, we will remember his wins, his moments, and his ability to lead the greatest teams of our generation. The shortstop position isn't just a grinding affair in the middle of the diamond, it requires consistent communication, understanding, and wisdom to know every situation laid out available for the rest of the team. Floundering at this position can lead to unfathomable errors, blunders that can't be restored, and cause chaos on and off the field. Where the NFL has it's quarterbacks, the MLB has it's Catchers and Shortstops. These positions, unfortunately, do not hold the glamour that we anticipate when it comes to the awe factor of what we would like to see on the field. These figures are the behind the scenes make shifters that do wonders more than the eye can see. The responsibilities, the daily grind from Mid-Winter to Mid-Autumn can wear down those who hold these positions every single day at the most demanding of positions.
This is why, usually, the Catchers and Shortstops bat at the bottom of the lineup. For they are the grinders on the defensive side of the ball and are the power outlets for the defense to flourish. When they bat higher in the batting order, they are the true gems hidden in the rough.
Jeter proved to be a consistent model of greatness on every half inning he ever played. He had his bumps and bruises and missed absorbent amount of time throughout his career due to injury. But, when he played, you knew he was a force to be reckon with. He wasn't a 40 home-run guy, somebody who could steal a base at will, or a highlight reel machine nightly on nightly news outlets, but when he would play, you knew exactly what you were getting and if it was a big spot, you knew he would deliver.
What he represented to the game of baseball is what every individual strives to achieve and he did it in the brightest light we could only ever imagine. He was something that can't be repeated, someone that could play in any era, and someone who's quirky style of going about his business made him beloved for he wasn't the generic cookie cutter ball player that you saw on a daily basis.
The way he lunged at pitches he never swung at, the way he would swing so helter-skelter that it looked like a mail man shoeing away at the neighbors dog, and the way he ran like a miniature horse expecting nothing but pure love from its owner. That's what will resonate with million's of people.
He was something that made you wonder (especially as a kid) "Wow, if he can play like that and bring people to their feet, then I can too." That simple statement, which only seems simple to the elder eye, resonates so vividly to the children who have ever worn a little league uniform or envisioned playing the game. When you can simply relate to a professional with the way they present their style of play, it makes the imagination flutter, the heart race, and joy seep into the eye's of children. The excitement starts to churn, the optimism steadily grows, and the anticipation of things to come grasp and tug at our souls.
We won't remember the way Jeter played 100 years from now. For all we know, YouTube & the internet will eventually evolve into some other stratosphere and we'll have his game film in another realm we can only imagine. But, the culture in which he captivated so many young people will only live with those who witnessed him live or especially in person. In 2114, people will see him on the record books, but will look at someone else in a similar light and picture anointing them as the greatest thing they ever saw and as something that captivated a light that something will never emulate again. The cycle will repeat itself, we will just never know when.
Well, that someone the past 20 years has been Derek Jeter. As baseball only moves forward, Derek Jeter's presence will lay the ground work for where the game's history has come and gone once again. As we step into another day and a new light that the game will dawn upon us all, the grass, dirt, and bases will still exist. It's the faces on the ball field that will grow, wilt, and fade as time moves forward once again. This won't be the final legacy that Major League Baseball will draw, it is one of the many more to follow and tug at our heart strings once again. It is, though, another legacy that made this game a little brighter and a little more charming then it was prior to it's existence.
I am honored to have witnessed the greatest shortstop who ever lived. What a spectacular, unabated, miraculous, flawless career by Number 2... Derek Jeter... Number 2.
Click the link below to view Jeter's final At-Bat in Yankee Stadium.