Connor’s Corner: Jeter calls it a career, leaves behind lasting legacy

Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle helped build an illustrious measuring stick among the all-time Yankee greats.

Now, Derek Jeter can be added to that list following his final Major League Baseball game at Fenway Park Sunday.

In the top of the third inning, Jeter dug into the box and slapped an infield RBI-single.

He was called safe at first base and received a standing ovation from the crowd – filled with die-hard Boston fans aware of the volatile rivalry between the two teams.

Before Jeter exited the field, he stopped and hugged the opposing pitcher, Clay Buchholz. The act of mutual respect – after Buchholz conceded a run in Boston’s 9-5 loss – shows how important Jeter has been to the game, and embodies everything that he stood for in his 20-year career.

Growing up in New York, it was frowned upon to be anything other than a Yankees fan. Being the rebel that I am, I followed closely in my father’s footsteps and fell in love with the New York Mets. My allegiance to the Metropolitans consequently made the Yanks my least favorite team.

I may strongly dislike the pinstripes, but that never stopped me from being a Jeter or Mariano Rivera fan. It’s tough to dislike individuals who never seemed to do anything wrong.

Jeter has set the precedent for how professional athletes should carry themselves, especially in a sport marred by performance enhancing drug use. Jeter was able to restore some integrity within baseball, which desperately needed it following speculation or positive tests among franchise players like Manny Ramirez, Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds and Ryan Braun.

He said all the right things, motivated his teammates and was there to accept criticism for the team’s shortcomings.

In our technologically advanced society, it is nearly impossible for professional athletes to fly under the radar, but that is exactly what Jeter was able to accomplish. Johnny Manziel can’t seem to get his name out of headlines, and he hasn’t even completed a pass in the National Football League.

Jeter always managed to show up when the team needed him in the postseason and earned the title “Mr. November.” Five World Series championships, 14 All-Star game appearances, five Gold Gloves, five Silver Sluggers and the 2000 World Series MVP will be more than enough for a first ballot Hall-of-Fame bid.

Statistically speaking, there were better ballplayers than Jeter, but I would be hard pressed to find someone more beloved and respected throughout MLB.

He won’t go down as the best shortstop in MLB history or even in the top five Yankees of all-time, but he will be remembered as the best captain and role model in baseball. He was an outstanding example for so many people over the years, not just ballplayers, not just Yankees fans.

It’s going to be tough to see another shortstop in pinstripes on opening day next season, but change will be good.

Players who idolized Jeter growing up will continue to burst on the scene, and you don’t have to look far to find the next Jeter – he already plays in Anaheim, Calif.

CONNOR SONDEL

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