When my family moved to Queens in August 2001, the most I’d known about baseball was the fact that my dad had gotten a broken nose from catching a wildpitch at our seminary’s softball game. But very quickly, over the years, my dad would buy my brother and I our first gloves, play catch with us in the front yard, take our to our first games, and show me how to love the game by simply exposing me to it. Baseball is this nations “pastime”, and yes, it’s exactly what the name suggests, past your grandfather’s time. To a lot of people, including my friends, it’s a mundane and boring sport that is incredibly hard to appreciate. But for the last decade plus, I have unknowingly come to fall so deeply in love with the sport that taught me more than I would’ve imagined.
My dad took us to ballgames every summer for some odd years, and I remember looking forward to them every summer. Some point along the way, I learned everything a 10 year old girl could ever learn about baseball. By the time I was in middle school, I followed it so closely that I knew more than half of the Yankees active roster stat. There’s no explanation to why I chose to root for the Bronx Bombers over the team that was located less than 20 minutes away from my house. Maybe I started out as a bandwagoner when I was a kid, or maybe it was because during the fall of 2001, the only thing that an entire city could hold onto was yet another bid for Championship. The Yankees, led by Jeter and the Core Four, delivered so much hope and restoration to us.
Ever since then, I have always rooted for the team and the organization. While I might not always be fans of the decisions, and sometimes do experience a lot of disappointments, but I never gave up. Jeter became the pinnacle for every kid. The way he worked hard, the way he led quietly, the way he maintained his head. There’s no question that for the last 20 years, there is a direct correlation to Jeter’s game and the influx of #2s emerging in the infield. Though I personally identify more with Ichiro (the day he signed to be in pinstripes, felt like a day I could die), Jeter has always been a leader and a role model to every kid in NYC in the ballpark, and permeated the game on so many levels. In high school we went through an entire half hour of practice time doing field drills and doing “the Jeter”: hard grounder to the backhand at full speed, leap into the air and pivot your torso, aim the gunner to first base. Then there were the countless times my brother and I (along with all the other neighborhood kids) stood in front of mirrors, perfecting our “Jeter” stance.
Most of Jeter’s critics are right, he’s not the greatest player in the world, heck, he might not even be anywhere near the top of the charts. But to any kid growing up in the ballpark in the 5 boroughs, behind every jump-throw, flip, dive, opposite-field line drive, infield/outfield collision, toe-stance, and bat held high, stood a single man who through his career taught me one of the hardest lessons to learn:
“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you.”
I turned off the TV last night knowing that along with nearly 8 billion others, that one of the most distinct chapters of our favorite book has just closed. To a kid who grew up watching Jeter play, he/she has never known this world of sports to exist without The Captain. It left me at a little bit of a loss, this feeling like I don’t know what’s supposed to come after. Since my senior year of high school, I have not followed MLB as closely, but when Jeter began his storybook farewell tour this year, I knew I had to turn back to the game that I still love. As a filmmaker, the amount of drama and story that exists in the world of sports is unparallel. And in this case, I don’t mind that none of us could have every written as beautiful a script as the last 20 years Jeter gave us.
September 25th, 2014. The Bronx is once again occupied by a thunderous crowd. A classic chant that first escaped the lips of Bleachers section 203, Bald Vinny, “De-rek Je-ter”. A player steps up to the plate at the bottom of the 9th; scores tied 5-5, 1 out, 1 RISP. He swings at the first pitch, a hard opposite field line drive single, the runner comes home and they win the ball game. His final home-game at bat, a walk-off single – classic; Derek Jeter wouldn’t have it any other way.