The Captain takes his final bow (and I was there for it!)


The day had finally arrived. After scoffing at the retirement for most of the season, my hero, Derek Jeter, and I were faced with the overwhelming reality that our journey together was coming to an abrupt end.

Yes, I am fully aware that Mr. Jeter has not a clue of my existence, but that does not matter to me. Like it or not, athletes are heroes to little kids around the country, and for me no person stood taller than Derek. Now, I am also not delusional and know that despite my admiration for him, Jeter had to be shared with millions of other people around the world. Aspiring ballplayers, adoring mothers, jealous fathers, even most super models adored the guy. Regardless of that fact, I have always felt a stronger connection to him than most (okay, maybe the super models have a better connection with him).

I was born in the summer of 1995, around the same time Jeter made his major league debut. From the time I could crawl, Jeter was always the guy I pointed my little infant finger at. Even at the tender age of two, I would watch the 1996 World Series on a loop in order to catch a glimpse of “Derek Jeter” and “Torre Baseball.”

As the years went by, I was fortunate enough to take the position of shortstop and wear the infamous number “2” on my back that Jeter sported so well on his. It sounds silly, but a sense of pride would ooze through me each time I put my uniform on. Every single nuance he would do on and off the field, I would try to emulate.

Quite simply, I feel as though Jeter’s career arc has coincided with the arc of my life thus far. His retirement signifies not only the end of perhaps the greatest era of Yankee baseball that I will have in my life, but also the end of my childhood. And that is a damning thought that causes one to enter numerous states of reflection.

With that short bit of background in mind, you can imagine my excitement when I got a random call from my dad last Tuesday proclaiming that we had somehow gotten our hands on three tickets to Derek Jeter’s final game in Yankee Stadium (shoutout to my Uncle Dan for supplying the tickets).

Take a trip back with me to Thursday night.

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It was supposed to be a stormy night in the Bronx. Many members of the media were skeptical that the game was even going to get played. Rain was present throughout the day and was expected to be an even bigger nuisance as the night moved forward. But what the forecast forgot to consider was that this was DEREK JETER’S LAST HOME GAME, and everything always works out in Jeter’s favor. If the man’s life was made into a movie you would walk out of the theater because you wouldn’t deem it to be realistic enough.

Wouldn’t you know it, by 6:30 p.m. all the clouds in the sky departed, and supposedly a rainbow formed around Yankee Stadium.

The atmosphere at the stadium resembled what I can only imagine is how a World Series game would feel. There was supreme tension, anticipation and a level of adrenaline unmatched by any sporting event I had ever attended. Fans hollered and belched at Jeter’s every move and the famous “Der-ek Jet-ah” chants were in full force throughout the night.

Jeter welcomed us all to his goodbye party by nearly hitting a home run in the first inning that without a doubt would have sent the crowd straight into a coma. Instead, the ball hit off the wall and he cruised in for an RBI double. Vintage Jeter, rising up to the moment like no one else can.

To my surprise, there were plenty of instances in which Jeter looked overwhelmed with emotions. As I studied his actions in between pitches and innings (because I am a freak) I noticed that he would blink a lot and take an unusual amount of deep breaths. For a player that had always thrived on the biggest stage baseball can provide, he had met his match in only the second meaningless game he had ever played in his career.

Derek Jeter was finally letting his emotions get the best of him.

By the time the ninth inning had arrived, both the crowd and Jeter were unsettled by their emotional state. Luckily for the Yankees, they had a 5-2 lead and would most likely be able to give The Captain the proper send off.

Fans were imploring manager Joe Girardi to take Jeter out of the game during the middle of the inning in hopes that they would be able to have their special moment with him (like they had had with Mariano Rivera one year earlier). Some fans even went as far as to call Girardi a bum for not going through the proper protocol of the situation. But then Adam Jones tomahawked a homer, and Steve Pierce was not too far behind with a bomb of his own. Before we knew it, the game was tied and Girardi suddenly looked like a genius. The Captain was due up third in the bottom of the ninth.

Coming into the night, I thought there was 100% chance that I was going to leave the stadium in a puddle full of my own tears. And let me tell you my friends, when Jeter hit his signature base knock between the first and second base hole to win the game, I lost it. Have you ever seen a teenage girl react to a boy band when they first come on stage? Well, that was me right when he got that hit. No shame.

For 19 years, I have idolized Derek Jeter. I have watched him morph from a upstart rookie, to an American heartthrob, to a champion and finally to his current state as a distinguished legend. There is no other person I could ever envision having as a role model and I still will never comprehend how I was able to witness the final scene of his baseball fairytale in person.

Thank you Mr. Jeter, for painting the picture on professionalism, helping me fall in love with the game of baseball and for giving me the proper goodbye.

Glad I was able to be there with you, buddy.