After nearly twenty years as a Yankee, Derek Jeter is leaving home.
The Yankee stalwart plays his last home game Thursday in the city that watched him grow into an exceptional professional athlete and man of integrity. Since the mid-'90s, Jeter has been our native son, giving 100 percent to his team no matter the pressure or celebrity that followed him. Seldom has a "goodbye" been this bittersweet. We know he has to move on, but boy, will we miss him.
Jeter made us proud, a clutch player, breaking baseball records with consistency, humility, leadership and grace. A consummate professional, he played the game with no drama or showmanship. Fame never seemed to go to his head. Unlike other celebrity athletes, we never had to worry that our children's hero would end up embroiled in scandal. He never made us regret our devotion.
In a Gatorade commercial released last week, with over 5 million views on YouTube, Jeter simply walks around his city, shaking hands and joking with fans. He's like us. Only better.
His relationship with The Boss was legendary. Jeter is extremely close to his own father, and Steinbrenner became a second father to him, calling him out for bad behavior in the early days, and then rewarding him as Captain a few years later. These two larger than life men recognized in each other the qualities of effort, discipline, leadership and loyalty.
And loyal he was. Never once in his career did he threaten to leave us. He made us feel secure and cared-about. That makes this "good-bye" even harder.
This ending feels less like a breakup than a letting go. We will miss him, but we are grateful for what he gave us, and how he made us feel. At 40, he wants to do other things and start a family of his own.
I hope he keeps in touch.