With recent stories of numerous off the field problems involving professional athletes, isn’t it ironic that one of the classiest pro athletes ever will be retiring today? Much has been written and spoken during the past week about Derek Jeter and his legacy. I don’t necessarily consider him to be the greatest player to ever put on a jersey; a hall of famer, yes, but there has certainly been players who have had higher career batting averages, hit more home runs or stolen more bases. But when you combine what Jeter did during his 20 years of playing on the field along with his off the field record, very few players can match him. In fact, if you look up the word captain and professional in the dictionary, a picture of Jeter should appear. He defines what a real captain and professional athlete should be all about.
Nearly every high-profile professional athlete in this country gets involved in some sort of scandal or controversy at some point in their career. In this day and age of social media, the internet and TMZ, one off the field slip up can ruin a guy’s career. Amazingly Jeter played in one of the largest tabloid markets in the country, New York City, yet during his 20 year career, how many scandals was he tied to? I never heard of any. Imagine a young, high profiled, handsome athlete playing in New York City and not being involved with any off the field controversies? Surely the blood thirsty New York media had to be trying day and night to dig up some dirt on Jeter! Perhaps there was a time when he failed to lift up the toilet seat ? Or maybe he jay walked on a New York street? For an athlete like Jeter to have played in New York for that long and not be involved in any off the field scandals is a great testament to who he was. I highly doubt he was a total saint, but he did not go out in public and make a fool of himself like many athletes do. I always admired his attitude towards his off the field activity. He behaved like a professional should after leaving the stadium. No bar fights, domestic issues or police arrests for Jeter. He carried that captain and professional label off the field as well.
His play on the field speaks for itself. An over .300 career batting average, various globe glove awards and many world championships. He might have been one of the savviest and smartest to have ever played his position. Much has been talked about his brilliant play in the Oakland series to stop an Oakland rally and help the Yankees win the series. Little plays like that were a norm in Jeter’s career. I will always remember Jeter for some of those fantastic back-handed plays at short-stop where he jumps in the air and still has enough mustard on throw to get the runner out. Very few who have ever played the game can make those type of plays. You also very seldom heard him whining about his statistics. He was all about winning from the minute he entered the stadium. Many pro sports superstars these days only care about themselves and what they can do to win a batting title or lead the league in home runs. Jeter was only concerned about winning world championships.
A professional athlete in any sport should play close attention to the career and legacy of Derek Jeter. A professional athlete has many responsibilities to not only himself, but to their organization, the fans and most of important, the game itself. Athletes like Jeter are one of a kind. Their conduct both on and off the field is a blueprint on how to act properly as a professional athlete. In this day and age of self-serving me first athletes, Jeter was certainly a breath of fresh air for this sports fan. I join millions of sports fans around the world in wishing the Yankee’s captain the best of luck in any future plans. Pro sports needs more Derek Jeters.