By Rick Pezzullo
On the same day it was announced his iconic #2 jersey would be retired on Mother’s Day at Yankee Stadium, legendary shortstop Derek Jeter made a rare appearance in Westchester County last month to talk baseball and business.
Jeter, 42, who retired from the New York Yankees in 2014, was the main attraction December 6 at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown during an event coordinated by The Business Council of Westchester and Steiner Sports Marketing and presented by People’s United Bank.
The five-time World Series champion participated in a Q&A dubbed “The Winning Game Plan” moderated by ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap. Only certain individuals were permitted to meet Jeter prior to the conversation, while others had a chance to greet and take photos with current Yankees Dellin Betances and Tyler Austin and former Bronx Bomber Cecil Fielder.
Jeter said he was able to achieve his dream of playing shortstop for the New York Yankees and was most proud of playing his entire 20-year career with the same team.
“Sharing all those special moments with the fans, I couldn’t think of playing anywhere else,” he said. “Once you have an opportunity to put on the uniform and win, when you taste winning and get to share it with Yankee fans, they care so much.”
Sixth on the all-time hit list with 3,461 hits, Jeter admitted he considered quitting the game when he was 18 but his parents, who were often visible in the stands at Yankee Stadium, helped him overcome his doubts and refocus.
“Unless you’re a weatherman, you can’t fail that much and still have a job,” Jeter quipped about his knack during his career to play his best in the post season and crucial games. “You learn how difficult it is to win. Every year I thought we had the best team, even when we lost. It’s tough when you put that much effort into something and you fail. I’m a sore loser. I’m a bad loser. I came up with an owner (George Steinbrenner) with the same philosophy, unless you win the championship the season is a failure.”
Jeter said the 1998 team that finished 125-50 and captured the World Series was probably “the most special group to be part of.”
“No one cared who the hero was or who got the headlines. It was a team where any player from one to 29 could beat you on any given day,” he said. “We had many different types of leaders on our team. It depends on what leadership means to you. I never walked into a room and said, ‘C’mon guys, follow me.’ I never thought of myself being any different than anybody else. I never tried to do things for the camera, and if you do that people will follow.”
In 1996, Jeter started the Turn 2 Foundation to help children and teenagers in Michigan, New York and Florida avoid drug and alcohol addiction, and to reward those who show high academic achievement and adopt healthier lifestyles.
“My parents always said if you have a little, give a lot,” he said. “My foundation starts at home. I always gravitated to people who told me what I was doing wrong.”
He has also started the Players Tribune, which provides athletes an unfiltered forum to express themselves. Jeter, who got married earlier this year, said one day he would like to own a professional sports team and now spends a lot of time playing golf.
“I always wanted to have a smooth transition into retirement,” he said. “I never wanted to wake up, look in the mirror and say, ‘What am I going to do now?’ You find things you’re passionate about. I’m passionate about business. You have to find a way to quench your competitive thirst.”