"Now batting for the Yankees, number 2, shortstop Derek Jeter. Number 2," echoed through Yankees Stadium for the last time on Thursday night.
If you say those two words to any person in America -- baseball fan or not -- they'll likely have something to say, memories to relive.
Jeter is a leader. Jeter is a fighter. Jeter is a ballplayer. There isn't is any other player in this game that you give those qualities. Every shortstop out in Little League wants to become the next of him, wants to do what he does, and wants to be like him. And with good reason.
Regardless of his accomplishments on the field, Derek Jeter is one of the most respected people in America. He gives to charity. He even has his own foundation! He plays the game the right way. And he has been in the spotlight ever since Jeter came up to the show as a baby-faced rookie at the age of 21. And since appearing in 15 games in 1995, Jeter has been the shortstop.
It's hard to imagine how baseball will go on without him. We are used to seeing number 2 suit up for the New York Yankees every day. And yet, we know that he will never be putting on the pinstripes ever again.
He has recorded 3,463 hits (in counting), good for sixth all-time in the Major Leagues. He has been to 13 All-Star Games, a mind-boggeling stat within itself. He has five World Series rings, including the 2000 World Series MVP. And he has played in enough postseason games -- 158 -- to account for another season in itself. He has a career .308 average in October.
I remember when Jeter got his 3,000th hit. It was a hot July day, July 9, 2011, to be exact. Jeter was sitting on 2,998 hits. After a single in the first for his 2,999th hit, fans become anxious for Jeter's 3,000th. He delivered, but not in any ordinary fashion. Jeter homered for hit number 3,000. Although power has never been a big part of Jeter's game, his 3,000th hit left the yard, only the second player in MLB history (Wade Boggs) to do that. Of course, Jeter ended the game with 3,003 hits, going 5-for-5 on the day.
We thought that was a storybook ending. Two nights ago, in Jeter's final game at Yankees Stadium, and likely his final game playing shortstop for the Bronx Bombers, Jeter played an emotional role in the Yankees victory. Like Mariano Rivera last season, Jeter could have been pulled in the final inning, walking off to a standing ovation with the Yankees leading 5-2. However, after two Baltimore homers, the game was tied, and Jeter was due up third in the bottom of the ninth.
With a runner on second base and only one out, Jeter really walked off to a standing ovation in Yankees Stadium. Both figuratively and literally. Jeter took the first pitch opposite field to right, hitting a walk-off RBI Single to cap his Yankees Stadium career. An emotional crowd and an emotional Jeter witnessed history once again.
Anyone who can say they saw Jeter in person has seen a part of baseball history. It doesn't matter if he went 5-for-5, was the hero, or even struck out three times. Jeter is an icon. Jeter is a legend. Anyone who says they saw him play witnessed something very special. They witnessed something that they can tell their grandchildren. "You really saw Jeter play?" they would ask, wide-eyed. "Yep, with my two own eyes," you respond. You can tell them all about Jeter and what he has done for baseball.
I wish Jeter all the best in retirement. I, along with baseball fans everywhere, will always have a soft spot when you hear the name itself. "Now batting for the Yankees, number 2, shortstop Derek Jeter..."