(Photo courtesy of The New York Times)

by Mike Reistetter

Playing in an era tainted by players using illegal, performance-enhancing drugs, Major League Baseball icon Derek Jeter seems to stand alone amongst the pack as the most respected and skilled of all the players who “did it the right way.”

Yet throughout his career as the Shortstop for the New York Yankees, Jeter has never overwhelmed anyone with power numbers. He’s never won an MVP Award. But with his consistency, durability and knack for always rising to the occasion, Derek finds himself bombarded with gifts of appreciation, respect and admiration from all his opponents this year as he makes his final stop in each city that he has played in since making his debut nearly twenty years ago.

Jeter has been fortunate enough to play on some remarkable teams, including being an integral part of the 1990s revival of the Yankees’ dynasties of the past, which saw him help the Yankees earn four world series titles in five seasons (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000). By the Age of 27, Jeter had played eight seasons in the big leagues and of those eight, six ended with him and the Yankees competing in the World Series. That is an extreme rarity and an unprecedented beginning to a player’s career that may never be matched again.

Jeter’s impact during this time period was never underestimated, as he was eventually named the Yankees Captain in June 2003. An honor so significant in the most storied franchise in professional sports history, Jeter still has never been the biggest cheerleader on the bench. But his calm intensity has provided both professional and amateur players the perfect “Lead By Example” persona to model themselves after.

Sadly now, the dream is almost over. Jeter gained his 3,000th hit in 2011 after a couple years on the decline, and after ridding himself of the stress and pressure he subsequently returned to the type of catalyst he was at a younger age by finishing seventh in the MVP in 2012, in a rather unanticipated comeback campaign. Many critics claimed his days as a relevant player were winding down and his defense and offense were dropping off significantly. But he defied the odds and beyond, until it all came crashing down in the extra innings of a playoff game, where he broke his foot diving for a ball to his left at shortstop. He refused to be carried off the field and walked off on his own power, but the remainder of his career was in jeapordy. His injuries still plagued him throughout all of 2013, where he only managed to play in 17 games.

With a hard winter full of rehabilitation, he was given a fresh start to the 2014 season in Spring Training and has remained in the Yankees lineup regularly. So far this year, he has competed enough to keep the Yankees in contention and the team has responded to the visible departure of their captain by rallying together in order to bring him one more ring.

The price he has paid for his commitment to his first love and all his fans however has aided in what he cites as his reasoning for hanging up his cleats. He claims he would like to take time to pursue a family, and begin the next chapter of his life.

He is commended for his honest reasoning that explains his plans to exit. Although he no longer will make a day in and day out impact on the entire sports world, his presence will surely be felt by all the players and fans whom he influenced, as none of them shall ever forget both the character and manner he exhibited both on and off the field as the perennial leader of the New York Yankees.