In my family you’re born an automatic fan of the New York Yankees. My parents and grandparents would tell stories of the “glory days” with players like Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. We grew up watching the games and even the films like The Pride of the Yankees.
Last week we witnessed the close of another legendary Yankee career as a family. Derek Jeter played his last game at Yankee Stadium on Friday. Mom and I cried at the Gatorde commercial and even as Jeter’s nephew saluted him. (Dad, of course, thought we were nuts.) His last hit in the 9th inning was a bittersweet moment even though he was the hero of the day.
Then Mom and I got to talking about why I have been such a fan of Jeter for the majority of his lengthy career. Yes, he’s a fantastic ballplayer and easy on the eyes but the man is also a class act.
I’ve watched as he was an encouraging captain for his teammates while never appearing cocky or entitled. And noticed as he managed to avoid the controversies which seemed to be the hallmark of his fellow professional athletes. His parents mean the world to him and Jeter is active in charity work to help the next generation learn values that will follow them for a lifetime. Fellow fans might also remember that his children’s book called The Contract came out last week which outlines his dreams and also his work ethic on and off the field.
What really cinched my opinion was this recent interview with Brian Williams. When Brian asked if there was a family in his future, Jeter said “yes.” It appears he held off on a family of his own until his busy professional career was at its end. Jeter wanted to have more time to devote to a wife and children. The fact that he thought about such a thing (someone other than himself) is very admirable. When everyone is telling you how wonderful you are, that level of sanity and humility is probably very hard to come by.
Here we have a man who handled public life with grace, has treated his family and teammates with kindness and respect, and he was not going to start a family while his career required his undivided attention. A man who is capable of working hard. Who would not allow the fame (or a position of power) creep in on his morals and values.
With all those qualities in mind Mr. Jeter is an incredible role model for young people (and his peers) and an excellent example of the type of man I’d like for myself someday. Five World Series rings not required.