This picture says it all: Jeter putting his body on the line, diving into a crowd of New Yorkers ready to receive him. Meanwhile, A Rod is in the background, yearning for similar adoration.
NY Post- Twenty years ago today, a roar went through the Harbor View Room, a large conference room next to the kitchen at George Steinbrenner’s Radisson Bay Harbor Hotel in Tampa. A group of stunned and euphoric executives rejoiced at a baseball miracle, the Red Seas of the draft had parted in just such a way that the youngster every person in the Yankees’ draft war room was in unanimity must be taken was outrageously there with the sixth pick. Kevin Elfering, the Yankees’ director of minor league operations, leaned toward the speaker phone connected to the Commissioners Office and read off an identification number: 19921292, a name and a high school. And with that, on June 1, 1992, Derek Jeter of (Kalamazoo, Mich.) Central High School was a New York Yankee… The bliss, however, was mainly that five teams had bypassed Jeter, three of which had him atop their boards.
Sometimes in life, the stars align. There are moments to treasure when things just work out. Like when the chip to dip ratio on your plate comes out to a perfect 1:1, despite not even making a conscious effort to pace yourself. Or when one contestant on Price is Right passes the good showcase that features a Jet Ski and a trip to the Bahamas to you, and they end up with a new dining room set and a Buick. 20 years ago today, the Yankees front office had one of these moments when 5 teams passed on the greatest franchise player over the last 15 years. Mets fan, Red Sox fan, fucking Mariner fan, I don’t care; that is an indisputable fact. Derek Jeter has been the face of baseball for the last 15 years. And save me the “Pujols, Bonds, Griffey” argument. There are plenty of guys with better numbers, but it’s more than that. It’s the intangibles. Never once has there been a Jeter steroid allegation and the guy sprints down the line on every routine groundout to second. He plays the game the way it was meant to be played. He is the face of baseball. Call it luck or call it fate that the kid from Kalamazoo who was destined to be a star went to the city with the brightest lights. The fact remains that 20 years ago today, something mystical happened and the chips fell into place for the Yankees. As the full NY Post article states, there were several reasons why each team didn’t draft Jeter. Whether it was the Astros picking first and needing immediate results that they thought a high school kid couldn’t provide, or the strapped-for-cash Expos at # 3 drafting B.J. Wallace, who last year decided to pursue a career in manufacturing meth, each of the 5 teams drafting before the Yankees let a golden opportunity slip through the cracks.
What a 20 years it’s been. All the jump throws, over-the-shoulder catches, late-inning heroics… what hasn’t the shortstop done for this team? I’m trying my hardest not to blow Jeter in this blog, but frankly, it’s more difficult than I thought. The man just does it all, and he’s been the rock of this team for the last 20 years. Could you imagine if Jeter was a Montreal Expo turned Washington National instead? The guy was born to wear pinstripes. He looks great in Yankee blue. And to waste a player of his caliber north of the border for the years prior to the move to Washington would have been a downright shame for baseball. Or what if he was a Houston Astro? No joke, I saw an Astro highlight the other night and thought it was a clip from 2004. I completely forgot that franchise exists. Just redefining the word irrelevant. But luckily, we don’t have to think about these crazy what-ifs because Jeter was born a Yankee and will die a Yankee. Happy 20th birthday to the greatest sports legacy of this generation.