Thank you, Mr. Jeter
“Game Seven of the World Series …”
“Bottom of the 9th …”
“The game is tied at 3 …”
“Derek Jeter at the plate …”
A young Owen Sanborn, rid of one of his two front teeth and boasting a Derek Jeter shirsey that’s two sizes too big, races though the hallways of his childhood home in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
As he rounds third base (the counter that separates the dining room from the kitchen) and heads for home (the big couch in the living room), he dives head first into a sea of teammates (pillows) waiting to celebrate the euphoric moment.
DEREK JETER JUST FREAKING WON THE WORLD SERIES.
“OWEN!!” my mom exclaims, as she races down the stairs and around the counter that separates the dining room from the kitchen (third base) towards the big couch in the living room (home plate).
“Mom, we won! Jeter did it!” I shouted, my squeaky voice muffled by the pillows.
She picks up a ten-inch replica wooden bat with the legendary New York Yankees’ “NY” stitched as its label, and points to a dent in the wall and the pieces of drywall that have fluttered below it.
“What did I tell about swinging this in the house?”
I grew up with Derek Jeter, and he grew up with me.
I watched him morph from a quiet kid trying to be the best that he could be to a dignified legend of the highest order. I would watch his every move — how he swung the bat, how he fielded a ground ball, how he always hugged and thanked his parents, how he stayed so calm under pressure, how much he laughed, how he handled the media, how he respected his coaches, and, perhaps most importantly, how he spoke to the ladies.
I am not sure if anyone can live up to his standard in that department.
Each of those nuggets, coupled with the tutelage of my parents, eventually equated into the man that I am today, and even though Mr. Jeter has not the slightest clue as to my existence, he has had a profound impact on my life.
Yes, even I must admit that that is kind of strange. A person that I have not physically met or spoken to has played a significant hand in the molding of my ever-evolving self. But I, like many other young sluggers, was always watching, trying my best to be just like him.
You know how everyone wants to meet their hero and for he or she to be exactly as they pictured? Well, I had that experience last spring. Kind of.
I was at a Dick’s Sporting Goods at the WestShore Plaza in Tampa, Florida at 10 AM on a random Saturday. I was on a hectic search for some new slip-on sandals — a staple in my wardrobe that I am both proud and ashamed of — when I turned the corner and saw Mr. Jeter and his then girlfriend (now wife), Hannah Davis.
They were buying socks.
The couple was locked in arms, and based on Davis’ laughs, Mr. Jeter was seemingly cracking a joke or five. (He’s still got it.) Suddenly, I was faced with a decision: Do I go up to him? What do I say?
I am the type of person that thinks I could be friends with the people I idolize, so rushing up to the two of them and spewing a way-too-rushed thank you to Mr. Jeter for the person that he is was not really in the cards for me. I am sure he gets that every hour of the day.
In the end, I just stayed out of their way. Sock shopping is a special time for any couple, and I felt vindication for anointing Mr. Jeter as my hero for all of those years. No words had to be spoken.
Derek freaking Jeter buys his own socks with his girlfriend just like I do.
It still hasn’t really hit me that the #2 is going to forever retired in pinstripes. Quite honestly, it makes me feel old. I am no longer the little kid dreaming of the World Series while tearing my house apart, and Mr. Jeter is far removed from being a mainstay on the left side of the Yankee infield. Hell, he is actually fully bald now.
When the monument is revealed and Mr. Jeter addresses the crowd tonight, I will be taken back to all of the memories that he has given me. This one will certainly come to mind:
However, I will not only remember the excellence he showcased on the field, but also the personification of class that he exuded off of it.
Thank you, Mr. Jeter, for once helping carve my path as a ballplayer, and now as a man.