No envelopes, no stamps, no mail carriers involved. Just words from the heart intended for 8 million sets of eyes.
On Thursday, just three days before his No. 2 is to be retired within Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park, Derek Jeter published a letter in the Players’ Tribune titled simply, “Thank You, New York.”
In it, he chronicles his journey from Kalamazoo, Michigan, to New York City “the city” as he called it, and candidly revealed what his fans meant to him:
“In those difficult moments — those moments that feel unique to New York — you always showed me a sign.
All I had to do was look: It was a little girl’s tip of her cap, or a shout from across the street, or a rallying chant from the upper decks of Yankee Stadium that made its way down to the field. Or the support from teammates who taught me about the spirit of this city: That we’re all in this together, and we have to look out for one another.
New York, I’ll never forget how you looked out for me.”
I grew up a Mets fan on Long Island, smack dab in the middle of the Yankees’ dynasty of the 1990’s.
Seemingly the only one wearing a blue and orange No. 31 instead of a white and navy No. 2, you can obviously imagine the daily torment I would receive from my Yankee-fan peers.
It wasn’t pretty.
But if there is one thing that I’ve learned throughout my 25 years on this planet, it’s live under your own flag.
Be authentic. Do what you must to ensure a feeling of satisfaction at the end of the day when you lay your head on your pillow to rest.
On a trivial scale, that wasn’t easy to do as a Mets fan.
Like any regional rivalry, especially with the daily barrage I received, there was a certain amount of resentment toward the Yankees. Sometimes it was more jealousy than anything given their overwhelming success of four World Series titles from 1996-2000.
But there was something about that shortstop in the Bronx who donned No. 2 that I couldn’t help but admire. Even after his World Series MVP performance against the Mets in 2000.
In the 114-year history of the franchise, Jeter ranks first in games played, at-bats, hits, doubles, stolen bases, times on base and, yes, even hit by pitches.
He was the pretty boy who dated supermodels, but he didn’t act like it.
“Get up each day, put on your uniform, go to work, do your best, and don’t make excuses,” Jeter wrote. “That’s all New York ever really asks for. And that’s what I tried to do.”
He played the game like a consummate professional, treated it with the utmost respect and matured into a role model for millions of fans around the world.
He lived under his own flag.
On Sunday, he’ll get the recognition he deserves, taking his rightful place among 21 others within Monument Park.
When you think of the things in life that complement each other— those that sometimes cannot exist without the other— what do you think of?
There’s peanut butter and jelly, the stars and stripes, a ball game on a warm summer’s Sunday afternoon.
And for many, there’s Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees.
While the captain is thanking New York and its fans, his adoring masses will have an opportunity to return the thanks on Sunday evening.
My advice for them: take advantage of it. Especially after everything he did for the Yankees organization for two decades.
Who knows? He might get a few tips of the cap from Mets fans as well.