Derek Jeter and his effect on me.
by rick olivares
Sometimes, reticence is mistaken for aloofness or timidity.
Growing up, I always felt like the awkward one. I was tall, reed-thin, near-sighted, and definitely not the best athlete on any team I played in. So I mostly kept quiet. However, what I had was this iron will and determination to show that I could play the game. I was the free kick specialist on the football team. I was the defensive specialist on the basketball team. I was the utility player who could play any infield position where the coach put me.
However, between awkwardness and lack of talent, there was my parents’ fervent desire for me to hit the schoolbooks more than the pitch. There were my teachers in school who even petitioned my coach to take me off the team so I could concentrate on my studies.
I had become a different person as I lashed out. I became the quintessential angry young man whose emotions were on full display on the field.
I wish I was younger when I saw Derek Jeter play. He played the game of baseball for the New York Yankees the right way. He didn’t say much even during the most trying of times as he preferred to let his game do the talking as he played hard every single day through injuries and all. Furthermore, he was very respectful not just of the game of baseball but to all people.
Jeet was unflappable even as he played with a certain flair with a knack for the incredible. Through it all, he stayed calm and quiet. He never got embroiled in any controversy. He never quarreled with anyone. He never celebrated excessively to show up opponents. And in a city where gossip is news, he mostly stayed out of it except for the girls he dated.
I keenly followed Jeter’s career from a prodigious short stop in 1995 all the way to his being team captain and to last year where stopped by injuries, he played through the pain and did what he could for his team.
In 2003, I visited Modell’s along 42nd Street and Broadway. I checked out all the Yankee jerseys that were on sale – Posada, Giambi, Williams, Mussina, Matsui, Clemens, Pettitte and a few others. But the one I ran my hand through the Majestic (the brand) jersey was Jeter’s number two. It cost a $120. I didn’t even think twice. I bought it (as well as the blue batting jersey although a few weeks later on) and immediately wore it.
I went to Yankee Stadium afterwards; first for the tour of the locker rooms and Monument Park. It was a fulfillment of a lifetime dream to not only visit Yankee Stadium but to also see the hallowed grounds. I felt my hair stand up not because of ghosts of Yankees past but because of the history of the place. I thought of my grandfather who inculcated the love of baseball in me.
After the tour, we were being ushered out as the players were coming in any moment now. While making my way out, my mind was still in cloud nine and my feet still were not touching the ground when I felt a hand on my back. “Thanks” was what I heard.
I whirled and it was Derek Jeter who was carrying his Yankees bag and headed for the locker room. I couldn’t say a word as I was surprised. I didn’t even think of fishing for my digicam to ask for a photo. He pointed to my jersey (that bore his number two as well as his name) and grinned. He disappeared in the labyrinth of hallways underneath before I could come to my senses (well, there were the others from the tour who were there).
In the years since, I’ve been to many a sporting event covering them or simply being a fan. During the recent FIBA Asia tournament, a colleague of mine from philstar.com, Aldo, tapped me on the shoulder and asked me how I could remain so calm in such an electric atmosphere. I explained, “I’m focused on the game as I have to write about it. And… Derek Jeter.” I am not quite sure if Aldo understood that.
Like my grandfather and father before me who never grunted as they put their work boots on and went to work every single day. I have since tried to be the same. Going to work even when I am sick and all. In fact for quite some time, I had a sign atop my workstation or cubbyhole that said, “Today, I will do the best work of my life.”
Just like Derek Jeter will in his 20th and last season with the New York Yankees.