Keeler: Jeter will be greatly missed

I have many mixed emotions as I start to write this column. There’s sadness, joy, thankfulness and maybe most importantly gratitude.

I am grateful that I got to watch Derek Jeter play for the New York Yankees for the past 19 seasons. Jeter has been more than just the face of the Yankees, he’s a role model for youngsters everywhere, he’s the heart and soul of the greatest sports franchise in the world.

Jeter embodies everything that’s right in the world of sports. He’s classy, he doesn’t care about his statistics, or how much attention he gets. He doesn’t hit flashy home runs or show off like so many of today’s top stars are always trying to do. Jeter simply wants to do the best he can and help his team — the New York Yankees, of course — win another championship.

Jeter announced he would be retiring at the end of the upcoming season on Wednesday on Facebook. It was fitting and done in Jeter’s quiet sort of way.

He didn’t have some big super fancy press conference, he simply wrote a letter to thank his fans. How many big-time stars would do that? But that’s Derek Jeter and that’s one of the many reasons he’s my favorite athlete of all-time.

I can’t say enough to thank Jeter for what he has given Yankee fans everywhere. It’s honestly hard to imagine Jeter not being with the Yankees. He was a key piece to the five world championships the Yankees have won since 1996, but to me it will be the way in which he led that will always stand out the most.

The Yankees have always been about class, in my opinion, and Jeter, “the captain” epitomizes that more than anyone that has put on the Yankee pinstripes.

Obviously, his on-the-field play speaks for itself. He is a 13-time (sure to be 14-time after this season) All-Star. He was the World Series MVP in 2000, a five-time Silver Slugger Award winner and a five-time Gold Glove winner. Jeter was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1996, and of course, has 3,316 hits and a career batting average of .312.

I have so many memories of Jeter, but the one that will always stand out is ‘The Flip” against the Oakland A’s in the 2001 playoffs. Jeter made a miraculous backhanded flip to catcher Jorge Posada on a wild throw from the outfield, which helped the Yankees win the game and eventually the series. Jeter will do whatever it takes to help the Yankees win, and his workman-like attitude will certainly be missed.

Hopefully, Jeter’s leadership will carry over to the rest of the players in the dugout as the franchise moves forward.

In recent years, Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera have retired, and I knew Jeter’s day was coming soon, too. The four were such a big part of the Yankees’ great run, and one we may not see again in baseball for a very long time.

Jeter struggled with injuries last year and played in only 17 games, and I knew his days were numbered. You could see how tough the season was for him. He wants to play, and he wants to be healthy.

I was glad that he didn’t retire last year, and as sad as it is, I’m glad he’s announced before the season that he’s retiring.

Jeter deserves a farewell tour, even though I’m sure he’ll be a little embarrassed by it. I know all the Yankee fans want the chance to see him play one more time, and a chance to say goodbye in true Yankee fashion. I can’t wait to see the team honor him at the final Yankee home regular season game. You can bet that I will be watching the YES network more than any other channel during baseball season.

I am happy that Jeter is retiring now while he’s still got something left. I think he will have a good year, and finish his career with his usual style and class — and hopefully with one last championship.

I don’t believe in idolizing celebrities. You should always be your own role model, and you should look up to those around you that you know the best. However, if there was ever one sports athlete to idolize or try to emulate, to me that would definitely be Derek Jeter.

Thank you Derek Jeter for all the years, all the blood, sweat and tears of both joy and pain you’ve given the Yankee fans. The organization will go on, but you will be missed and you will never be forgotten.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd