Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Jeter’s ceremony hits right notes, like he always has

September 8, 2014
These are the Yankees and this was Yankee Stadium, so you naturally had flags with the official “Derek Jeter 2” logo encircling the stadium and every pinstriped uniform bearing a commemorative patch on the left sleeve.
You want minimalism? Go to your nearest artsy movie theater.
Nevertheless, on the Yankees’ spectrum, Sunday ranked as understated — and fitting, given the honoree’s personality. Derek Jeter Day came off as dignified and simple, with the captain himself playing an essential role in the execution.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, that understatement carried right into the ballgame, as the underachieving home team underperformed and underdelivered with a 2-0 loss to the Royals. At 73-68, they’re going to need a baseball miracle to get Jeter into one more postseason.
Yet even Jeter could take a moment after this loss to express appreciation for how well his special day went.
“The Yankees know how to throw big ceremonies,” he said. “To be part of it, have all of those people honoring you. … It’s a day that I’ll remember forever.”
The timing of this day remained odd, just as when the Yankees first announced they would officially honor their retiring icon with 21 games remaining. Jeter admitted, “It was very strange. It was kind of a different situation. There’s three weeks left in the season. We’re trying to win games.”
Years from now, however, few if anyone will recall when the Jeter farewell ceremony was held. They’ll just remember what happened, who attended and how Jeter wrapped it up with a heartfelt, economical speech.
Most of the usual suspects showed up, although Andy Pettitte — hunting elk in Colorado with his family, according to his son Josh on Twitter — set off fan alarms by not appearing. The Yankees expressed thoughtfulness by inviting Jeter’s good friend and long-ago teammate Gerald Williams as well as early mentor and all-around good guy Tim Raines. And if you didn’t guess Michael Jordan, Cal Ripken Jr. and Dave Winfield would be here, then you just weren’t trying.
Best of all was who and what didn’t appear on the field. Memorabilia schlockmeister Brandon Steiner, who got on-field recognition at Mariano Rivera’s day last year, was hidden this time. And the Yankees’ presents to Jeter — a massage therapy machine, a framed piece with Jeter’s All-Star Game patches, a trip to Tuscany, a custom-made Waterford Crystal and a $22,222.22 check to Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation — were original, tasteful and generous. Not a dud in the bunch.
And then Jeter elevated the already successful endeavor with his speech. He spoke for just about three minutes, and he mentioned exactly one person by name: Late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Which, as The Post’s Dan Martin points out, made this the exact opposite of Joe Torre’s Hall of Fame induction speech.
For the sake of efficiency, Jeter spoke of “family and friends” and “managers, coaches, trainers and teammates, both current and former.” He spent the rest of his time saluting the fans, even joshing with them as he often does with front-row occupants while he stands on deck.
“You guys have all watched me grow up over the last 20 years,” Jeter said. “I’ve watched you, too. Some of you guys are getting old.”
Turning mushy, he spoke of having “the greatest job in the world” as Yankees shortstop and added, “I always felt as though my job was to try to provide joy and entertainment for you guys. But it can’t compare to what you brought me. For that, thank you very much.”
A couple of more lines, a 360-degree cap doffing, a “DE-REK JE-TER” chant from the customers and he was done. “We’ve got a game to play,” he concluded.
“I wanted to be brief,” Jeter said afterward. “I didn’t want to talk too long because as I said, we had a game to play. I had an idea of who I wanted to thank. When I was in the dugout [while others were introduced], I had a chance to think a little bit.
“But I really never have been one to sit around and prepare things because when you prepare something and you don’t have it written down in front of you, if you forget one line, it doesn’t really fit together. I didn’t want to do that. I hope it came across well, because there were people I wanted to thank.”
It came across great. Everything did, at least until the Yankees started playing baseball. While Jeter isn’t getting his ideal final chapter, his official send-off couldn’t have gone much better.

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