The Major League Baseball All-Star Game has always held a special place in my heart, and I still love it despite the fact that inter league play has taken away a lot of the Mid-Summer classic's panache.
This year's game was extra special for me, watching as a longtime fan of Yankees' captain and shortstop Derek Jeter. It was his final All-Star appearance before retiring at the end of the season.
I was fortunate enough to work for the YES Network on the Yankees broadcast during Jeter's prime. I remember ‘The Flip' against Oakland. ‘The Catch' diving into the stands against the Red Sox. All of the great moments.
But, one stands out more than the rest. Spring training before the 2002 season in Tampa, Florida. I took my then 8-year-old son Mack with me as I was taping our season preview broadcast. Those were the days when kids were still welcome on the field before and after games.
It was a very relaxed, spring training atmosphere, as it always is in Florida. I saw Mack in the dugout talking with Derek, which was cool. Mack is a huge Yankees' fan, and had his No. 2 jersey on at the time. The Captain, who was not YET captain, couldn't have been nicer.
Mack came over to me, and asked to borrow my phone for a moment. I was doing other interviews, and not paying close attention, so I said…'Yes', and I gave him the phone. I glanced over a few moments later, and saw Derek handing the phone back to Mack, who proceeded to run back over and hand it to me.
I thought nothing of it, until my phone rang a few moments later. It was Fred back in New York, the father of one of my son's schoolmates. Fred was very apologetic as he explained his son was being punished for telling a fabrication. Fred had looked at his phone's caller ID, saw it was my number, and asked his son who he'd been speaking with. Fred was very disturbed that his son had made up some cock and bull story about talking to Derek Jeter, and that he was outdone that his youngster would spin such a crazy yarn. He said he had taught his son never to play games with the telephone, and that a consequence would be meted out straight away.
That's when I had to break the news to Fred that his son, in fact, HAD spoken to Jeter, that Derek didn't mind... and that was the kind of young man the Yankee shortstop was.
Derek Jeter always played the game the right way, and stayed out of trouble and the spotlight his 20 years in big league ball. He always forgot about yesterday's game and didn't think about tomorrow's. Today's game was the one on the schedule, and the only one he could do anything about. I've always admired that about him, and his approach to the game. All the milestones, the three thousand hits - All of it. But, nothing was more special than the approach.
Nothing he could have ever done, or will do the rest of this… his final season in the bigs… will top that moment he took to spend with my boy that spring afternoon in Tampa. For that, I offer my simple parting gift to Derek Jeter. Three words.
Thank you, Cap.
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