By Jason Klein
Nobody wants to get old.
As long as Derek Jeter kept playing for the Yankees, I didn’t have to.
Watching him play on a nightly basis over the last nineteen years helped prolong my childhood and allowed me to escape Father Time’s inevitable grasp. His consistent play, stable demeanor, and youthful appearance made me feel like time stood still for two decades. As long as Jeter wore pinstripes, I’d feel young.
Flip on the game and…POOF! I could be a kid again.
This October, when Derek Jeter walks away from baseball for good, he’ll take a big piece of my childhood along with him. He’ll also leave behind a franchise in need of a new identity.
Former Yankees Pitcher, and Jeter teammate, Mike Mussina once said: “We can put on the uniform, and we can play in the Stadium, but we’re not the New York Yankees unless Derek Jeter is playing shortstop.”
With Jeter onboard, the Yankees could always be the Yankees of the mid-to-late-90s. They could be the Bernie-Tino-O’Neill-Posada-Pettitte-Mo Yankees. With #2 penciled in the lineup, expectations, confidence and accountability would always be high. No waters ever seemed too choppy, as long as Jeter was the Captain of this pinstriped ship.
He is the final link to the most recent golden era of Yankees baseball – the last “Core 4” member standing. He helped win four World Series Titles in five seasons. He made his jump throws, wore his Jumpman, and at times, you believed he’d keep playing, and winning, forever.
He won’t though. His remarkable career will come to an end after the 2014 season. The Kalamazoo Kid who never seemed to age, finally did. It reminds us all of our own mortality.
Nothing lasts forever. Even if it seems like it might. If you’re twenty-something, all you know is Derek Jeter at shortstop for the Yankees. Literally. That’s it.
I was fourteen when he made his debut. I’ll be 34 when he tips his cap for the final time. For twenty years, no matter what was going on in my life, Derek Jeter was a constant.
He entertained me as a high school kid, distracted me as a college student, inspired me as an adult, and worked alongside me during my career at Steiner Sports.
My Dad took me to see him play as a kid. Now I take my own daughter to see him.
The fact that my 3 year-old daughter roots for the same active player in 2014 that I did in 1995 is a tribute to Jeter’s consistency, longevity, and drive to succeed.
As a parent now, I watch her get older with each day that passes.
With Derek Jeter retiring, I’ll get a little bit older too.
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