This past weekend I was in New York City for Derek Jeter Day. It was my last ballpark of the season (ended with 7, 3 short of my goal), and my final time seeing my favorite athlete OF ALL TIME play in person.
My sister got us tickets right when they made the announcement, so we only paid $25 a person. Yes, Yankee Stadium has affordable seat options, but they’re high up. We got to the stadium early, as did everyone else. It was the busiest I’ve ever seen the park, and we were there last year for Matsui’s retirement and bobble head day. Those bobble head days are some crazy times if you remember last season’s Rivera fiasco!
Alex and my tradition is to find our friend, Henry, as we had an extra ticket and wanted to take him with us. It was too packed and though we searched for him for a good hour, no luck! I’m proud to say my sister passed on the extra ticket to a man selling candy outside the stadium with cerebral palsy and we later saw him in the park with a big smile on his face. I’m so lucky to have a sister with such a generous heart and beautiful spirit. I credit our upbringing. She is one of a kind!
When we did make it into the stadium, we went straight to the standing room behind home plate for a close view of the ceremony. We weren’t the only ones wanting to see the Captain up close and we crowded around the line tightly. The ceremony included introductions of many former players- Jorge, Bernie, O’Neill, Tino, Matsui… just seeing them again, I wanted them to suit up and play in this game. I’d kill to see the late ’90s Yankees team play one more game! Ahh if you could only go back in time or press pause!
Finally, Derek came out and the cheers were LOUD– as they should be. He gave what felt like a short speech and ended in true Jeter fashion– we have a game to play. That man is all business! I was surprised by my lack of emotion following it. I didn’t cry like I did watching Mariano’s the year before. I shrugged it off and got ready for the game, thinking it would be a magical win, much like the game following Matsui’s retirement. It was not.
As the Yankees took the field, the team gave the Captain another honor, they let him take the field alone. Watching Jeter be genuinely surprised and show real emotion was great. He didn’t know they were going to do that and the crowd going nuts as he took it all in was my favorite moment of the day.
In his first at-bat, he got a hit, that he had to really run out in true Jeter effort. I thought it was the start of some Yankee offense, but they left that on the field the day before. The team struggled, as they have much of this season. It’s a true testament to Girardi’s management that they’re still in contention. His ability to keep this team together and not implode the last few years blows my mind. Big, big fan.
Alex and I watched the game from the standing room behind home plate and the first-base line before settling behind the right field bleachers. We like the bleacher fans at Yankee Stadium, they’re colorful and loud! I talked to the Royals fan beside me for a little and we compared park experiences, as he was a fairly seasoned ballpark traveler himself! He was really nice and I never saw any fans hassle him despite his team being up 2-0.
After the 7th inning stretch, Alex and I made the video board which was a first for me in all the ballparks/games I’ve gone to. It was exciting and I’m glad the park could enjoy my sign- “Still nothing sweeter, than checkin’ out Jeter!” It’s my tried and true sign that I know he recognizes, so hopefully, he knew his #1 fan from Cleveland was there to see him.
I didn’t believe the Yanks would lose on Derek Jeter Day until the final out in the 9th was called. Alex and I took a few final pictures of the park as the police ushered us out. They cleared that park quick! That’s when it hit me, this was my last time seeing Jeter in person. All the emotions finally came out as I thought of the years and years of going to see him at the Jake (now Progressive Field), Alex and my “sister trips” around the country, my 30 park marathon in 2012, and the multiple times I’ve seen him this season– this was it. I cried, thug tears of course ;), as my sister dragged me out of the stadium.
Like many Yankee fans, I grew up with Jeter. He was a staple of my childhood and my early adulthood. The words from his speech were ringing true as they finally set in. Jeter saying he felt like a kid again while playing connected, as I realized I felt like a kid every single time I saw him play. That’s a feeling I’ll never feel and a connection I’ll never have with another player for the rest of my fandom. It’s something I’ll always treasure and memories I’ll have for the rest of my life.
Media from Derek Jeter Day, including Jeter’s full speech: