Derek Jeter made his major league debut for the New York Yankees on May 29, 1995. I had turned eight years old exactly three weeks earlier. It marked the beginning of the part of my childhood that I can really remember.
I don't remember Derek's first hit, but there aren't many in the seasons that have gone by since that I didn't see on television or hear on the radio. Jeter's, as well as the Yankees', run of dominance through the late 1990s neatly coincided with the years in which I began becoming obsessed with sports.
I begged my parents for Jumpman baseball cleats to wear to my Little League games. I begged some more for my very own Jeter jersey. I wanted as much Jeter stuff as I could get. Growing up a Yankees fan, who didn't?
I remember sitting on my couch every night at 7:00 PM waiting for the game to start, waiting for the Bleacher Creatures to do their roll call and waiting to hear Bob Shephard announce, "Now batting. For the Yankees. Number two. Shortstop. Derek. Jeter. Number two," in the way that only Bob Shephard could.
Jeter's detractors like to talk about how he doesn't, and never has, put up the gaudy numbers that are the norm for a superstar baseball player.
I, like most avid Jeter supporters, argue that it isn't the numbers which made Derek special, but the moments.
The moments when he took your breath away, when he made spectacular plays in the field or came through with the big hit.
These moments can all be described in a few words or less. These are moments that I'll never forget as long as I live, and I'll never forget where I was when they happened.
Jeffrey Maier: my parents' basement. 1998: In Yankee Stadium for Game 2 of the World Series in a record-setting season. The Flip Play: at my former next-door neighbor's brand new house on the other side of town. Mr. November: my room at home.
The Captain: at sleep away camp. The Dive: my friend's living room down the street. Passing Lou Gehrig: my third month in my first law school apartment. And now, 3000: just over two years later in that same apartment.
These days, Jeter's not the player he once was. He's proven that over the last two seasons. The hits, and the moments, don't come as often anymore. The down slope of Jeter's career has pretty neatly coincided with the official end of my childhood.
By the time I finally finish law school next year, who knows; it might be time for Derek Jeter to retire.
But leave it to Derek Jeter to bring it all back with one more special moment: a five-for-five performance on the day of his 3000th hit. The 3000th was a home run, to left field, no less. Perhaps a single to right field would have been more appropriate, given the nature of Jeter's career.
But the home run makes the moment special. The home run makes the moment live forever.
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