February 26, 2014 — Each year, at the start of spring training, Derek Jeter meets the media, and spends about a half hour answering questions about the state of his career and of the team.
That “gathering” took place last week in a pavilion at George M. Steinbrenner Field. But this time around, the media availability with Jeter was actually a historic press conference.
In front of a packed room that included journalists from around the country, several members of the Steinbrenner family and the entire Yankees team and coaching staff, Jeter spoke about the announcement he had made a few days earlier on Facebook. Although he wouldn’t refer to the gathering as a formal press conference, this was the time in which Jeter formally announced that the 2014 season will be his last as a player.
As a member of the Baltimore Orioles media relations department in 2001, I was at Cal Ripken Jr.’s retirement announcement, and last spring I was at the press conference in which Mariano Rivera revealed that 2013 would be his final season. In both of those situations, the retiring legends were emotional. Ripken and Rivera nearly broke down when they spoke about the finality of their playing days – even though they still had several months of baseball left.
Jeter was different. He was unemotional. He was stoic. More than anything else, he was focused.
As I sat a few rows in front of the one of the most storied Yankees of all-time and listened to him discuss his career, I realized that what has made Jeter so great year-in-and-year-out, is his unwavering focus. And, just because he’s made a decision to move on after this year, that unflappable focus hasn’t gone away.
When asked about his future after baseball or about his past accomplishments, Jeter said little. When asked about the upcoming season, Jeter spoke at length. While much of the baseball world is focused on the fact that in few short months, Derek Jeter’s career will be over, he is focused on the now. That’s how he’s always been, and that is what has made him stand out among all the great players in the modern era.
“I’m looking forward to doing other things, but not yet,” Jeter said. “For now, I guess I like the idea of doing other things, but until the season is over, I really don’t plan on thinking about those things at all.”
–Alfred Santasiere III