Derek Jeter goes out on his own terms, like Mariano Rivera before him
Mariano Rivera took one last tour through the major leagues last year. This year will be Derek Jeter’s turn.
Jeter will be making his last appearances in places like Fenway Park, Camden Yards and Yankee Stadium after announcing Wednesday afternoon the upcoming season will be the final of an illustrious career that began in 1995 after he was the team’s first-round pick in 1992.
Jeter made the announcement by posting a picture of a lengthy letter to his official Facebook page.
Though Jeter isn’t likely to get involved with social media, it was his way of going out on his own terms, following the lead of Rivera.
Rivera was coming off a serious knee injury and when he officially announced his retirement at a packed news conference on March 9, he said he was going to use “all his bullets” left in his arm. Rivera did so with a strong season that featured an emotional sendoff with him sharing a tearful embrace with Andy Pettitte and Jeter on the mound.
Now it is Jeter’s turn.
“I’ve experience so many defining moments in my career, winning the World Series as a rookie shortstop, being named the Yankee captain, closing the old and opening the new Yankee Stadium,” Jeter wrote. “Through it all I’ve never stopped chasing the next one. I want to finally stop the chase and take in the world.”
Similar to Rivera, Jeter also said he thought it out as reflected in the opening part of his statement.
“It was months ago when I realized that this season would likely be my last. As I came to this conclusion and shared it with my friends and family, they all told me to hold off saying anything until I was absolutely 100 percent sure,” Jeter wrote. “And the thing is, I could not be more sure. I know it in my heart.
“The 2014 season will be my last year playing professional baseball.”
Jeter is a 13-time All-Star and will likely be the focal point of this year’s game in Minnesota just like Rivera was last year at Citi Field. He has five World Championships in an era where there are three rounds and 11 victories are required.
He also has the Yankee all-time record with 3,316 hits, breaking Lou Gehrig’s mark of 2,271 on Sept. 11, 2009.
“In the 21-plus years in which I have served as commissioner, Major League Baseball has had no finer ambassador than Derek Jeter,” Bud Selig said in a statement. “Since his championship rookie season of 1996, Derek has represented all the best of the National Pastime on and off the field. He is one of the most accomplished and memorable players of his — or any — era.
“Derek is the kind of person that generations have emulated proudly, and he remains an exemplary face of our sport. Major League Baseball looks forward to celebrating his remarkable career throughout the 2014 season.”
“For nearly 20 years, there has been no greater ambassador to the game of baseball than Derek Jeter,” said MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark. “Day in and day out, on the world’s greatest stage, and through the peaks and valleys of a 162-game schedule, Derek consistently demonstrates awe-inspiring levels of passion, determination and excellence.
“I had the pleasure of playing against and with Derek. As his teammate in 2004, I had the privilege of seeing his leadership and professionalism manifest itself daily. A champion on and off the field, Derek’s impact cannot be understated.”
The Yankees fans appreciate moments such as Jeter hitting the game-winning home run in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, earning the moniker of “Mr. November” or batting .334 in his last championship season of 2009 and everything he did to help the Yankees to win four titles in five years.
Perhaps his most memorable regular season game will be the day he recorded his 3,000th career hit with a solo home run on July 9, 2011 or the night he dove into the stands in an epic game with the Red Sox on July 1, 2004.
But even as injuries derailed him in 2013, Jeter still managed a brief flair for the dramatic with a home run in his first at-bat after coming off the DL for a second time on July 28.
“He’s a movie, is what he is,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You think about his 3,000th hit — how he did that. You think about what he did today. We hadn’t hit a home run since the All-Star break. We hadn’t hit a right-handed home run in months. And for him to come out and do that in his first AB? He’s a movie.”
Jeter will turn 40 on June 26 and if the Yankees miss the playoffs for the third time in his career, his last home game will be Sept. 25 against Baltimore and his regular season game will be Sept. 28 in Boston.
Before that, his goal is to avoid a repeat of last season. The early reports are that he has looked good in batting practice and fielding but the Yankees won’t know until he plays at game speed in spring training and regular season games.
One thing the Yankees know is that it likely will help the business side with higher demands for tickets to get last glimpses of Jeter in person. They’ll also have new merchandise to sell in addition to his T-shirts and jerseys.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.