Reflections of Derek Jeter — by Don Mattingly

By Alfred Santasiere III

November 14, 2014 — Earlier this month, I spoke with Yankees great Don Mattingly about Derek Jeter for a first-person vignette that will be published in the updated DJ Commemorative Edition (see blog entry below).
The interview took place at the New York Chapter of the ALS Association’s Lou Gehrig Sports Awards Benefit in New York City. At the dinner, Mattingly spoke with me about a conversation that Jeter considers to be one of the most influential of his career. Mattingly also discussed the pride he feels in having his name on the list of former Yankees captains along with the likes of Jeter and Gehrig. Enjoy this special interview below.

— Alfred Santasiere III

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I first met Derek when he was in the minors. He had a long way to go at that point, but I liked the way he went about his business. One morning during spring training, we were both coming off a back field together. I was running off the field, and I noticed that he wasn’t. I quietly told him to always run onto and off the field because you never know who’s watching you. At first, Derek thought I was referring to fans watching him, but I knew that Mr. Steinbrenner had his eyes on us.

Derek picked up his pace that day, and I never saw him walk onto or off the field again. He ran on and off the field before and after every practice and every inning of every game for the rest of his career. Over the years, I’ve also heard Derek talk about that conversation and explain that he took something out of it.

Derek was going to be a great player regardless of whether that conversation took place. But guys like Derek, who become great players, take the right things and make them their own. They take what they like so that it becomes part of who they are, and they get rid of the advice they’re not comfortable with. Derek has done that so well over the years. He’s had his own mindset, always knowing exactly who he wanted to be.

Derek was a great captain of the New York Yankees. Speaking from experience, I can say that when you’re named captain, you never really understand how much it means. Derek really grew into that role over time, and he gained an understanding of the meaning and the honor of that position. To share that distinction with Derek is special to me. He represented the captaincy of the New York Yankees as well as anyone could have.

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