Let me first say – I hate the New York Yankees. I am a Red Sox fan to the core, born and raised right outside of Boston. My reason for that disclaimer is to show how difficult it is for me to write the next few words: I am a Derek Jeter fan.
Jeter is the ideal New York Yankee. In fact, he’s the ideal face of any franchise. Every single game of his career, he has left his heart on the field and he has remained even-tempered on and off the field. In short, he is a class act. Despite despising the pin stripes, I truly admire their shortstop of the last 15 years.
On July 9, Jeter got his 3,000th hit when he homered against the Tampa Bay Rays. It was a long time coming – Jeter has certainly slowed in recent years – but he is just the 26th player to reach that batting plateau and the first player ever to reach it while wearing a New York Yankee uniform.
As he rounded the bases, not only did the crowd at Yankee Stadium stand and cheer, but the Tampa Bay Rays came out of the dugout to applaud the impressive milestone. It was just the latest in a long list of examples that show to the universal respect that Jeter has commanded throughout his career.
Jeter is an athlete who transcends team loyalties; he’s one of those athletes – like Jerry Rice and Cal Ripken Jr. – who you can’t help by respect, even though you may not like their team. Even though the Yankees are such a polarizing team, Jeter is not a polarizing figure. Unlike his teammate Alex Rodriguez, or Barry Bonds, both of whom are great baseball players but are universally hated to the point that their achievements are not celebrated, but scorned.
I think I’d have a hard time finding someone who doesn’t respect Derek Jeter. Throughout his career, the Yankee shortstop has remained respectable, both on and off the field; he isn’t one to talk trash and he doesn’t make negative headlines. He has remained the perfect model of how to be a superstar athlete – leaving his heart on the field each and every game and remaining a gentleman while doing so.