Reflections of Derek Jeter – by Paul O’Neill
June 20, 2014 – A few days after I spoke with Eli Manning about Derek Jeter, I interviewed former Yankees rightfielder Paul O’Neill about the captain for another first-person vignette that will appear in the September Issue (see blog entry below).
O’Neill’s recollections about Jeter are below. Enjoy this unique perspective on the captain’s great career, and be sure to grab the September Issue to read what so many others had to say about Jeter.
–Alfred Santasiere III
By the middle of 1996, I knew Derek was going to be a great player. His winning attitude and his competitiveness were evident very early in his career.
Derek came up at the perfect time. The Yankees had turned things around and made the playoffs the year before. Sometimes, it seems as if things just happen for a reason. Derek was at the right point of his career at the right time with the right team. And, our team needed him at that time. Derek gave us a shot of youthful emotion. It was a great fit.
Derek was never intimidated by any situation on the field — even during his first postseason. In his mind, he always thought he would succeed in big at-bats. That confidence comes from who he is inside, but he also had a lot to draw from because he had succeeded in clutch spots from the time he got to the majors.
When I think back on being on the same field with Derek, the first moment that comes to my mind is his flip play in Oakland during the 2001 American League Division Series. That’s not a play you practice. People were going in different directions, and it was very hectic out there. He was in the exact right place at the right time. It wasn’t a coincidence that he happened to be there on an overthrow, so that he could field the ball and flip it perfectly to the plate. Some of the great things people do in the game are just instinctual, and he has great instincts.
More than anything else, Derek will be remembered as a winner. He’s a great baseball player who enjoys the game. That’s easy to say about a lot of people but I truly mean it about Derek.