NY Sports Day
Joe Soccoa

Soccoa: Growing Up With The Yankees Derek Jeter

Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire

In 1995, I was 4 years old. That was the year Derek Jeter, a skinny kid from Michigan made his Major League Debut for the New York Yankees. Coming from a family who loved baseball, I watched but can barely remember. It was the years after that I can start understanding the game of baseball and who Derek Jeter was. There are pictures of me as a young kid in Mets attire; that was because my father was a Mets fan. If you look in home videos though, my third birthday I had gotten Yankees attire.

We all know the story in 1996, the year the dynasty was just getting started. I was now 5 years old when the Yankees won their first championship while I existed on this earth. As the years went on I began to realize what Jeter was starting to mean not just to the Yankees but to the city of New York. From the moment I started little league I wore the number 2 for the player I began to idolize. My friends would ask why number two? I simply said Derek Jeter.

The Yankees had many talented players on the teams that were part of the dynasty but Jeter to me always stood out. His work ethic, his dedication and his overall play. I remember hearing many media people along with scouts that Jeter wasn’t cut out for shortstop. He proved them wrong. That was another thing to admire about Jeter, he carried himself with respect for the game and to the media reporters who would blast him from time to time. He didn’t let it get the best of him.

Twenty years later, I’m turning 26 this July and on Sunday I will be in attendance to witness the greatest player in my generation enshrined into Yankees holy grail. I was fortunate enough to be at Mariano Rivera’s final game at Yankee stadium and cried with the rest of the 40,000 plus fans as he departed from the mound when his two best friends took the ball from him. This will be a bit different for me taking in the Jeter ceremony. I would be lying if I said I loved the core four just the same, and believe me those guys were the best but Jeter for me is a guy that stands alone.

To be able to witness a career that Jeter had is something us fans in this day in age can only dream of and when Jeter came to bat in his final game to get the game winning hit, Michael Kay’s words echoed “where fantasy becomes reality” could have been said any better in that moment, not for Jeter but for the kids who grew up watching the guy. It is not often you get a ball player like Jeter to play the game he did consistently for twenty years. You think back at the great players to play this game and how fortunate our fathers and grandfathers were able to witness that greatness.

Sunday, every Yankees fan and ever young adult like myself will be watching as our captain marks his place is Yankees heaven forever and there is no greater feeling. Will there be tears? Absolutely because those are the tears we owe to Jeter who gave his everything here in New York, who put on the uniform and went out and became a wonderful example for the game of baseball. You basically consider Jeter a family member as the big brother and to watch him grow up and become an idol to us all. There really isn’t enough thank you’s to express towards Jeter for what he gave us.

As we all sit there and watch a future hall of fame candidate on Sunday be sure to close your eyes and flash back to all the wonderful memories and it’s okay if by the end, as you open your eyes, you channel the late great Bob Sheppard and let it out, “Now batting for the Yankees, number 2, Derek Jeter, number 2.”


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