Reflections of Derek Jeter – by Michael Jordan

September 19, 2014 — Two days after I sat down with the greatest hockey player in history, I had the privilege of asking the all-time greatest basketball player a few questions about Derek Jeter.

During the Derek Jeter Day festivities at Yankee Stadium, Michael Jordan spoke to me about the captain — at Yankee Stadium. Jordan’s words (below) are included in the Derek Jeter Commemorative Edition of Yankees Magazine — along with those of Wayne Gretzky.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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One of the things that every professional athlete strives for is perfection. We work hard every day to try to improve our craft. If you do things the right way and you are as dedicated as Derek, you tend to respond under pressure. Pressure situations determine who has put forth the most effort, and it’s very obvious that Derek has. He has prepared the right way. When he gets into the workout area, he really works. That type of dedication is a gift that the best athletes have. Derek has been put into situations that he can succeed in because of the way he has worked. I was able to succeed in the big situations I’ve been in, and we all take pride in the dedication that made it possible to have that success. Great athletes thrive under pressure because they prepare themselves for pressure. Derek has always responded the right way under pressure. You have to give credit to him and to his parents, who instilled a strong work ethic in him.

I played alongside Derek in the Arizona Fall League. That was the first time I actually met him, and even back then, he was a great leader, just by the way he carried himself.

Winning happens because of great leadership, and it doesn’t surprise me that Derek has won five championships and been successful from the time he got to the big leagues. Derek is well-respected not just by his teammates, but by everyone in sports. He’s a champion and an idol.

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Reflections of Derek Jeter — by Wayne Gretzky

September 19, 2014 – A few days before Derek Jeter Day, I traveled to Toronto, Canada to interview Wayne Gretzky for a first-person vignette on Derek Jeter that is part of the DJ Commemorative and for an Art of Sport feature that will appear in the April 2015 Issue of Yankees Magazine. I will preview my Q&A feature on the life and career of the greatest hockey player in the history of the sport before the start of next season. But for now, enjoy Gretzky’s words about Jeter.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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There are professional athletes who understand that there is more to being a professional athlete than just playing the sport. Obviously, if you’re a professional athlete, there’s a lot that goes along with it. You play the game. You cooperate with the media. You treat your teammates well, and you understand that the fans are the most important part of it all. If you understand that those components are part of your everyday workload, things are a lot easier. Mark Messier used to say that there isn’t one thing about hockey that he didn’t love, and that included playing the game, the travel, signing autographs and answering the media’s questions. Derek is the exact same way. He understands the importance of what he brings to the Yankees and to the game of baseball.

I applaud Derek for announcing that this would be his last year. It gave baseball fans, Derek’s teammates and the players on other teams the chance to say goodbye to him. We can never get enough positive things in sports, and when you have someone who has done as much as Derek has and has meant as much to sports as Derek has, it gets no better than that. Derek deserves all the recognition he has received.

As a professional athlete, you want your last year to be parallel to your first year, but you can’t expect to have the same type of year you had when you were in your prime. Derek’s having a respectable season, and he’s leaving the game at the right time. If you give your heart and soul to the game the way Derek has, fans —especially those in New York — will support you to the end. They love Derek for what he has accomplished for the city and the team.

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Reflections of Derek Jeter — by Hank Aaron

September 19, 2014 – As I detailed on this blog throughout the summer, I have had the opportunity to speak to several athletes throughout sports, as well as some special people in other walks of life, about Derek Jeter. I have captured their words for first-person vignettes about the Yankees captain, and I enjoyed every one of those interviews.

While the group of people whose words we published in the September Issue is impressive, we have assembled an even greater collection of vignettes for the Derek Jeter Commemorative Edition of Yankees Magazine (see blog entry below).

In an interview that I conducted at the beginning of September, baseball legend Hank Aaron shared his thoughts about the Jeter. As you’ll read in the text below, Aaron discussed the first time he met Jeter. Fittingly, that meeting took place in a ballpark that we also published a feature about in DJ Commemorative.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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When Derek was a young player, I got to meet him at the 1999 All-Star Game in Fenway Park. I was there to take part in the pregame ceremony, and I couldn’t wait to talk to him. I had already seen him play a few times, and I was impressed by the way he approached the game. You don’t see as many people in sports that take the game as seriously as Derek. I just wanted to find out what made him think the way he did.

When I got the chance to speak with Derek, it didn’t surprise me that he was just as I had imagined he would be. He’s a nice person, and that has stood out in my mind as much as his consistent approach to the game.

Derek has shown me the utmost respect every time I have been around him. He speaks to me as if my career was something that was marvelous. Derek really looks at history and says, “Hey, some guys before me did some great things, and I want to be as great as they were.”

Derek has always had the ability to play the game at a high level, but his ability to play the same way every day is remarkable. There are a lot of players who play the game one way on a Monday, and by Friday, they are just trying to get by. That’s never been the case with Derek.

Without that approach, without treating every at-bat as if it were the most important one of the game, Derek would not have collected more than 3,000 hits. You really have to sit back and admire Derek simply because he never says, “Well I got 200 hits last year. If I get another 200 next year, that would be great.” Instead, Derek always wants to improve on what he did the year before.

I had the same attitude when I was playing. If I hit 35 home runs and drove in 100 runs, I felt there was room for improvement. There’s always room for improvement, and it was nice to learn that Derek has had the same approach to the game as me.

Derek deserves all the accolades he’s gotten this year because he has worked hard throughout his career. He’s been a great fielder, a great base runner, and although he hasn’t hit a lot of home runs, he has hit a few very important ones.

What Derek has done — playing his entire career with the Yankees and winning five World Series championships — is unheard of these days. Right now, Derek is focused on adding to what he’s already done, but when he looks back on what he’s accomplished five years from now, he should marvel at it. He’s been a great ballplayer. He has carried himself perfectly, and I don’t know of any other ballplayer who can say that. He’s been one of a kind.

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Derek Jeter Commemorative Edition of Yankees Magazine — ON SALE NOW

September 19, 2014 – In a recent post on this blog, I wrote that the September Issue of Yankees Magazine is the best one in the history of the publication. While I’m still beaming with pride about the September Issue, I believe that our most recent publication is equally as impressive.

The Derek Jeter Commemorative Edition of Yankees Magazine is on sale now at Yankee Stadium, by calling (800) GO-YANKS or by visiting http://www.yankees.com/publications.

This special edition of Yankees Magazine, which is dedicated entirely to the captain, is one of the great Derek Jeter keepsakes you will ever find.

The cover features a photograph of Jeter taken by contributing photographer Tom DiPace at the old Yankee Stadium. In the black and white image, Jeter is walking through the tunnel that led players to the home dugout, and as he did every time he walked down the passageway, he is touching the famous sign with Joe DiMaggio’s words from 1949: “I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee.”

In addition to featuring some of the most exclusive stories on Jeter that were published in the September Issue — including managing editor Nathan Maciborski’s retrospective on the captain’s career, my Q&A with the Yankees shortstop and Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and my first-person story with Jeter’s parents about their son’s childhood, this publications has so much more.

Contributing writer Mark Feinsand’s feature on Jeter’s memories of playing at Fenway Park is exceptional, and senior editor Jon Schwartz’ piece on how former Yankees scout Dick Groch found Jeter in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and recommended that the team draft him is an absolute must read.

Speaking of Kalamazoo, I traveled there a few years ago and spent some time with Jeter on the field that he played high school baseball on (on the day it was re-named Derek Jeter Field). We included the story on Jeter’s hometown and his upbringing —originally published in 2012 — in this special publication.

We also re-printed the very first stories ever published about the captain in Yankees Magazine, including a feature from the June 1992 issue. In Yankees Magazine’s first mention of Jeter, former editor Tom Bannon details the young shortstop’s ability and potential in a draft re-cap story.

The photographs in the DJ Commemorative are also spectacular, especially the images in a photo essay on Derek Jeter Day, which took place on September 7.

Finally, one of the most special elements of the publication is an eight-page, pullout. The classy piece is a timeline that details Jeter’s greatest hits and most significant milestones in pinstripes.

This is a time to reflect on one of the great careers in baseball history, and through the pages of the Derek Jeter Commemorative Edition, you will be able to do that during the captain’s final days in uniform and for years to come.

Enjoy this special publication.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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September Issue of Yankees Magazine – ON SALE, SEPTEMBER 2

August 23, 2014 – The September Issue of Yankees Magazine will be on sale September 2, when the Yankees take on the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.

You can purchase a subscription to the print version of Yankees Magazine by calling (800) GO-YANKS, and you can purchase a print or digital subscription by visiting http://www.yankees.com/publications.

In my opinion, this edition is the best one in the history of the publication. The entire issue is dedicated to Derek Jeter, one of the single most storied players to ever wear the pinstripes, and each of stories on the captain are as exclusive as they are special.

Managing editor Nathan Maciborski’s cover story is a career retrospective about Jeter. In the feature, Maciborski captures the essence of what Jeter has meant to those who have followed him for the better part of 20 years. The feature also offers insight from those who have worked closely with Jeter into what has set him apart from his peers.

As I detailed on this blog over the past few months, I wrote three features for this issue, including a Q&A with Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and Jeter at Wrigley Field, a first-person story with Jeter’s parents and a behind-the-scenes look at the captain’s final All-Star Game.

For two special “Art of Sport” pieces, I sat down with Hall of Fame shortstops Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith in Cooperstown, New York, and those interviews are must reads.

Other than the Bomber Bites section, which is a roundup of current news briefs, every other story is about Jeter. The Minor League Report details Jeter’s first few years in the Yankees organization, and the Where Are They Now article provides an update on Dick Groch, the former Yankees scout who found Jeter, then a high school star in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

You’ll find first-person vignettes about Jeter from great Yankees and icons from other teams, other sports and other walks of life sprinkled throughout the pages of this special issue. Whether it’s Hal Steinbrenner, David Ortiz, Paul Molitor, Eli Manning, Mark Messier or any Yankees great you can image, their words are on the pages of this issue.

Lastly, this edition features three covers. The cover that will be available all month long anywhere Yankees Magazine is sold features a photo of Jeter from the spring of 2009. The second cover, which will only be available at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 7 — when the team is planning to honor the shortstop in a special pregame ceremony, is graced with a beautiful photo of Jeter at the Stadium. On Sept. 25, Derek Jeter is scheduled to play in his final regular-season game in the Bronx, and a portrait of the captain taken earlier this season will be on the cover that will be available that night at the Stadium.

Enjoy this extraordinary edition of Yankees Magazine.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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2014 Edition of Yankees Magazine en Español – ON SALE, SEPTEMBER 2

August 22, 2014 – The third annual edition of Yankees Magazine en Español will be on sale on September 2, when the Yankees take on the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.

Without a doubt, this year’s Spanish-language publication is the best one we’ve put out. For starters, the cover features a beautiful portrait of Derek Jeter that Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello took in the bullpen at George M. Steinbrenner Field during the captain’s final spring training. In the photo, the stoic shortstop is sitting in front of the wide expense of the field and the huge Y-A-N-K-E-E-S graphic that hangs above the seats on the left side of the ballpark.

The cover story on Jeter, scribed by contributing writer Jorge Arangure Jr., delves into Jeter’s popularity in Latin America, where so many youngsters revere him.

I got an idea of how universal Jeter’s appeal is when I was in Panama with the Yankees in March. Every time I was in a public area with Jeter — walking through the airport, getting on a team bus at the hotel, walking out of the ballpark — the excitement among the crowds of people was off the charts.

As Arangure describes in his story, Jeter is not only admired, followed and emulated by fans in Latin America but also by the great majority of young ballplayers.

The reason for the team’s trip to Panama was to honor Mariano Rivera in his home country. The Yankees played two games against the Miami Marlins in Rivera’s homeland, and a special pre-game ceremony for the closer was held before the first game. Rivera also took his teammates to the Panama Canal during the trip. I was fortunate enough to witness all of it, and I also conducted a lengthy interview with Rivera during the first game of the “Series of the Legend,” for a feature that is included in Yankees en Español.

I also traveled to Puerto Rico to spend a few days with legendary centerfielder Bernie Williams in his homeland. My story on Williams is one of the favorite pieces I’ve written, mainly because the subject cared so deeply about making it special and historic. From visiting the first field that Williams played baseball on to the field where he was playing when a Yankees scout discovered him, to his high school, I covered all the bases in Puerto Rico. And, my conversation with Williams’ mother and brother shed light on why Williams was a great baseball player and why his humility and kindness will always stand out.

A few months before my trip to Puerto Rico, executive editor Ken Derry traveled to the Dominican Republic to explore how so many prospects — as well as a few star players — hone their craft at the Yankees Baseball Academy. In Derry’s exclusive story, he illustrates the unique challenge of making it in professional baseball.

A little closer to home, I found a real diamond in the rough. The most extensive collection of rare treasures from the life of Roberto Clemente are on display in the Pittsburgh museum — in an old firehouse — that bears his name. If you’re interested in learning about the legacy of Clemente, whose pioneering paved the way for countless Spanish-speaking ballplayers who followed him to the United States, I encourage you to read my story on the museum.

Lastly, there is a Q&A feature with Cuban native Gloria Estefan in this publication. I interviewed the seven-time Grammy Award winner last fall in New York City, and Estefan spoke with me about a wide array of topics that made for an interesting piece.

Enjoy this annual publication.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Reflections of Derek Jeter — by Jorge Posada

August 21, 2014 — On August 9, Jorge Posada was at Yankee Stadium to take part in the ceremony that the Yankees held for Paul O’Neill. Shortly after the team dedicated a plaque in Monument Park to O’Neill, I met up with Posada to talk about another iconic Yankee.

For a first-person vignette in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine, Posada shared his thoughts on Derek Jeter, his former teammate and close friend.

Below are Posada’s words about his friendship with Jeter and his tremendous respect for him.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Derek and I first played on the same team in 1992. He was the Yankees’ first-round draft choice that year, and when I first met him, he had ankle braces on, wore his hat weird, and was wearing high-top sneakers. And, he was very skinny. I said to myself, “Is this really our first-round pick?”

Then, he got on the field and started hitting home runs to center field and right field, and I quickly realized how talented he was. Once we began playing games, I couldn’t believe how versatile he was. He was already able to make that jump throw, and he was very fast.

Derek and I didn’t become close friends until 1995. We knew each other before that, and we hung out a little bit, but in 1995, we lived in the same apartment building, and we began spending a lot of time together. When the team was home, we would go out for dinner together, and when we were on the road, we ate lunch together almost every day. That September, we both got called up to the big club at the same time.

As soon as I began spending time with Derek, I learned what a great person he was and how much we had in common. I liked all the qualities that he had, and I felt that they were very similar to my qualities.

I used to write the things I wanted to accomplish on a piece of paper, and he did the same thing. When we were in the minors, I showed him that note. The things he wanted to accomplish were pretty much the same as mine, and we really worked hard together to reach those goals.

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Reflections of Derek Jeter — by Brian Butterfield

August 21, 2014 – On the same day that I interviewed David Ortiz for a vignette on Derek Jeter (see blog entry below), I spoke with Boston Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield about the captain.

Butterfield, who coached in the Yankees minor league system for several years, worked closely with Jeter at a crucial time. After making 56 errors during his first year of professional baseball, Jeter was assigned to the instructional league (in the autumn of 1992). According to Jeter, it was under Butterfield’s direction that he made the improvements necessary to ultimately become a major league shortstop.

From the infield at Fenway Park, Butterfield spoke with me about his experiences in working with Jeter day in and day out and hitting more ground balls to the young shortstop than anyone could count.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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I began coaching Derek when he was 19 years old. He was a good athlete, but the thing that stood out about him the most, especially as he was around other guys, was the type of personality he had. He was energetic, and he had a great sense of humor. The young guys and the old guys at instructional league gravitated to him. The coaches were always hanging around him to hear what he had to say.

When I began working with Derek, he was coming off a season in which he had made 56 errors. He wasn’t able to work on hitting because he had hurt his wrist, and that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. He had to work exclusively on defense for about a month and a half.

He went out there ready to work and with a smile on his face.

We would get out on the field early in the morning and stay out there until noon. We worked on Derek’s footwork, on catching ground balls, on catching the ball backhanded and on attacking slow rollers. We watched video of the morning session, and then we’d go back out in the afternoon. More than anything else, it was obvious early on that Derek wanted to become a great player and that he had great aptitude. At the end of every day, he was a better player than when he got out there.

I’m proud to have worked with Derek. He has impacted my life a lot more than I could have ever impacted his because he’s quick to give other people credit for everything that’s happened in his career.

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Reflections of Derek Jeter — by David Ortiz

August 21, 2014 – Earlier this month, I traveled to Boston to interview Red Sox star David Ortiz for one of the many first-person vignettes on Derek Jeter that will appear in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine.

In the interview, which took place along the first base line at Fenway Park, Big Papi’s respect for his long-time rival on the field was notable.

Below are Ortiz’ words about Jeter as they will appear in the September edition – dedicated to the Yankees captain.

Alfred Santasiere III

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I don’t think there’s a human being on earth who has something against Derek. It’s nearly impossible to reach that type of level of respect. It’s hard to be that perfect.

When I watch Derek walk up to the plate, I take notice of his body language and his swagger. It’s unique. I have tried to be like him, to exude confidence like him and to carry myself the way he has.

He’s had a longer prime than any other player I’ve been around. Most players are in the prime of their careers for about five years, but Derek has been in his prime for about 15. He’s been the Hercules of our sport, and he should get voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame unanimously.

I’m glad I’m going out right after him because I’m going to miss him when we play the Yankees. I’ve enjoyed competing against him. I’m going to miss getting to second base and saying, “DJ, what’s up?” He has always had something funny to say, and he’s done it without ever cracking a smile.

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The Art of Sport with Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith

August 21, 2014 – For the September Issue of Yankees Magazine, which is dedicated to Derek Jeter, I spoke to two other legendary shortstops for two special Q&A features.

During the time I was in Cooperstown, New York, covering Joe Torre’s Hall of Fame induction, I met up with Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith and interviewed both of them about the Yankees captain.

For two “Art of Sport” pieces, the Hall of Famers provided unique perspectives on Jeter’s career.

Smith, who is widely regarded as the greatest fielding shortstop of all-time, broke down Jeter’s performance in the field.

“A lot of times, shortstops are measured by how consistently they make the routine play,” Smith said. “With Derek, the Yankees have always been able to depend on him. When a team has a guy at shortstop who is as reliable as Derek, it has a ripple effect. It takes a lot of pressure off of the pitcher because there is less need to strike batters out. When the pressure is on the pitcher to strike guys out all the time because he doesn’t have steady middle infielders, the results are usually not very good. Defense has always been a big part of the game, and Derek has supplied the Yankees with the defense they needed up the middle for 20 seasons.”

Smith also shared his thoughts on Jeter’s jump throw.

“I think all of us have something unique in the way we go about our craft, and Derek is no different,” the St. Louis Cardinals legend said. “Anytime a play takes you farther away from the base that you want to throw to, it’s going to be tough to make. But the great shortstops have the ability to improvise. That is the greatest asset a shortstop can have because a lot of times, you never really know exactly how you’re going to turn after you scoop up the baseball. Derek has been able to handle the weird hops that are hit toward the shortstop position.”

In my interview with Ripken, he also weighed in on Jeter’s signature play in the field.

“It’s a very difficult play to pull off,” the Iron Man said. “Derek has perfected it and probably gotten a lot of people in trouble over the years for trying to emulate him. I never felt comfortable getting my body in position to make that throw without setting my feet. You have to possess a strong arm, and you have to have total control of your body in that position. Many times, it’s difficult for him to stop and turn around because of the speed at which he runs after the ball. But he developed a way to consistently make that jump throw with accuracy. It has opened up a way for shortstops to make that sort of running play into the hole, and it’s been fun to watch.”

After discussing Jeter’s heroics in the field, Ripken shared his thoughts about something he has in common with the Yankees captain.

“I think most players wish that they could have an opportunity to play for one team,” said Ripken, who played for the Baltimore Orioles during his entire 21-year career. “Playing for one team the whole way is special because it’s not easy. Teams make changes in personnel over the years, and they rebuild. From the player’s standpoint, you have to perform well year in and year out. You have to be committed to your team, and you have to understand that there’s a greater value in staying with the team you started with. Your career is more meaningful when you are attached to one team. I can’t imagine Derek wearing another uniform, and in the rich history of the Yankees, Derek is firmly planted as one of their all-time greatest players.”

At the end of each interview, I asked Smith and Ripken where Jeter stands among the greatest shortstops of all-time.

“It’s hard to say because you’re always going to have a debate as to who was the best at each aspect of the game,” Smith said. “I think we were all unique in the way that we went about our business, and we all tried to be as well-rounded as we could be. Derek certainly has been one of the most consistent players that the game has ever seen. And, if you had to choose one word to describe the shortstops who are in the Hall of Fame, consistency would be that word. More than anything else, that’s what has allowed them to be looked upon as the game’s greatest. Derek will be part of the small group of shortstops up here in Cooperstown, and he belongs on the short list of the best players to ever play the position.”

“Derek is at the top of the list,” Ripken said. “He’s the most complete player to ever play the position. He is an all-around great offensive and defensive player, and he is one of the best clutch players the game has ever seen. Derek is the guy you want at the plate if the game’s on the line. He has performed so well in the playoffs, and that separates him from all the other shortstops.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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