NEW YORK (AP) — Derek Jeter remained as cool and collected as his play at shortstop over the past two decades when the New York Yankees honored their retiring captain Sunday with a 45-minute ceremony that included appearances by NBA great Michael Jordan and baseball ironman Cal Ripken Jr.
Jeter thanked people a dozen times as he spoke to a capacity crowd at Yankee Stadium for about 3 minutes before Sunday’s game against Kansas City.
“It’s kind of hard to believe that 20 seasons has gone by so quickly,” the 40-year-old said. “You guys have all watched me grow up over the last 20 years. I’ve watched you, too. Some of you guys getting old, too. But I want to thank you for helping me feel like a kid for the last 20 years.”
A 14-time All-Star who is sixth on the career hits list, Jeter sparked a Yankees’ renaissance during which baseball’s winningest franchise took the World Series title in 1996 as he won the AL Rookie of the Year award. He led the team to three consecutive titles from 1998-2000, was named captain in 2003 and then won a fifth Series in 2009.
He missed most of 2013 after breaking an ankle during the playoffs the previous October, made his surprise retirement announcement just before spring training last February and followed with a respectable but unspectacular final season, his speed and range diminished but a starting shortstop until the end. He beat out a grounder to the shortstop hole for an infield single in the first inning, raising his batting average of .261 with three homers and 40 RBIs.
With three weeks left in the regular season, the Yankees could miss the playoffs for just the third time since he first came up to the major leagues in 1995.
“In my opinion, I’ve had the greatest job in the world. I got a chance to be the shortstop for the New York Yankees, and there’s only one of those,” he said. “I always felt as though it was my job, was to try to provide joy and entertainment for you guys, but it can’t compare to what you brought me.”
The Yankees didn’t retire his number 2 or unveil a plaque in Monument Park, no doubt setting up a Derek Jeter Day 2 at some future time. New York took a similar approach a half-century ago, holding a Mickey Mantle Day in September 1965 before his 2,000th game, then retiring his No. 7 in June 1969 after his playing days.
New York retired former manager Joe Torre’s No. 6 last month, leaving Jeter as the last of the Yankees’ single digits.
(Copyright 2014, The Associated Press, All rights reserved.)