Thank You, Derek Jeter

 This is a thank you letter to Derek Jeter from a fan, because of the way Jeter inspired him to be greater in his life each and every day.

This is a thank you letter from a fan because of the way Derek Jeter inspired him to be greater in his life.

Dear Mr. Jeter,

My name is Mike, and I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for making me a Yankees fan for the past twenty years. You see, I was born in the Bronx, but my family soon moved to Staten Island, which just so happens to be Mets territory. And even though my grandfather was a die-hard Joe DiMaggio loving Yankee fan, my father steered me towards to other New York franchise. Maybe it was because of the ’86 Amazin’s, or the fact that my dad’s favorite player growing up was Detroit Tiger, Al Kaline. Regardless, as the next few years went on and the Mets broke up their championship club way too soon, I began to drift; not so much to another team, but individual players.

As I started to grow into a good little ball player, I watched and studied some of the greats of the day such as Ryne Sandberg, Cal Ripken Jr., Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey Jr. My father and I soon began to collect signed memorabilia of our favorite players, yet perhaps because the Yankees of the time lacked marquee players, the only Yankees in the collection were long retired, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford. I’d soon enough get a porcelain figure of Don Mattingly, but this was just the beginning of my Yankees fascination.

Then in 1994 the Major League Baseball strike hit. I remember sitting at the dining room table going through packs and packs of opened baseball cards, thinking what a shame it was because Matt Williams, as well as the Montreal Expos were having such good seasons. This from the mind of an 11 year old! At the end of the summer and still with no return of baseball in sight, my family relocated to South Florida for a multitude of reasons; mom’s job, parents sick of the north-east winters, the opportunity for me to play ball year round.

Life in Florida was a bit of a culture shock, but a good one none-the-less. Now I’ll be honest with you, I don’t remember much about the 1995 Major League season. I think it had a lot to do with me still being upset about the lost ’94 campaign. That and I was 12, and getting acclimated to my new surroundings. What I do recall quite well is Buck Showalter’s new Yankees, who had been perennial cellar dwellers for quite some time finally making the playoffs in Don Mattingly’s final season.

Unfortunately they would go up against a stacked Seattle Mariners team, never allowing “Donnie Baseball” the opportunity to play on October’s biggest stage. This still burns me to this day!

That winter, around Christmas time, my family and I went to the local mall. With a few dollars in my pocket via relative’s gifts, we stepped into Champs. Looking around, I came across the sales rack. I’ve always loved a deal, what can I say! Flipping through the vast assortment of clothes, I spotted a super sharp navy blue New York Yankees sweatshirt.

With big beautiful red embroidered letters and the classic Yankees ball logo, I was fixated. Luckily for me, the sweatshirt fit like a charm. But what good is a new sweatshirt without matching fitted hat; yeah my dad bought me my first Yankees fitted.

The following April 9th, 1996 is forever an opening day I will remember because it was played in the snow; pretty cool, even to this day. A young Andy Pettitte pitched 6 innings of 3 run ball for the win. But what really stood out was the lanky rookie shortstop who made a spectacular defensive play on the way to a future Rookie of the Year award, and first World Series Championship. Did I finally have a young player on a team I could fully root for?

So I went back to school the next day and wore my Yankees sweatshirt with pride, but it became very apparent that I was now living in Atlanta Braves territory. You see, the Florida Marlins were still a relatively new franchise, and in fact the Braves spring training home would stand in West Palm Beach till 1996. Being the new kid with the “weird” accent, still trying to find my identity, I embraced being a New Yorker, and absolutely rebelled against the standard Southern loving fans.

To this day I take great pride in rooting for teams that are hated; Yankees, Knicks, Giants, Jets (yeah, all NY teams, go figure). But at this time, the Yankees were the under-dogs; a club that hadn’t won a world series since 1978, the Pinstripers were continuously mediocre, that is until you laced ‘em up.

Getting crap from people I barely knew only pushed my desire to learn everything about you and the Bombers I possibly could. In early summer of 1996 no one wearing Yankees apparel would be considered a “front runner.” HA, I beat the bandwagon by about 5 months! Being on the ground floor of your career and witnessing the rise of a one of a kind, dominant team that still seeks greatness to this day because of the standard you set is something no one can ever take away from me.

Since that day in 1996, my love for the Yankees and favorite player label has belonged to you. And I can honestly say it won’t ever chance. Even when you hang up your cleats at the end of this week, when people ask, “who’s your favorite player?” I’ll always respond, “Derek Jeter.” Why? Because you made me that way, something I should have been since birth.

I played baseball all the way through college and I emulated your game as much as I could, even though I was primarily a second baseman till I moved permanently to centerfield. I wore your jerseys. Read your book, collected your baseball cards, Starting Lineup Figures, all sorts of memorabilia, and was even given a signed ball as a Confirmation gift from my Uncle. I’ve been there with you through the highs: (5 World Series Championships, your 3,0000th hit which was a home run, “The Flip”, Jeffrey Maier, the “Jump Plays”, and “The Dive”; and I’ve stuck through the tough times; losing 2 World Series, the broken ankle, not making this playoffs in this-your final season.

But all in all, you’ve had the career only dreams are made of. You’ve left it all out on the field and inspired a generation of future ball players. I’ll be forever lucky and grateful to say I saw you wear pinstripes, both in person and on TV.

Thank you, Derek, for being the example of what an idol should be. You played the game the right way and more importantly lived your life off the field in a private, humble, and unapologetic way like the greats used to. You’ve inspired me in more ways than I could ever thank you for.

And although I’ll never get to don Yankee pinstripes, I hope to achieve greatness in my profession by being prepared, hungry and genuine, just the way you taught me to be.

All the Best,

Mike Calendrillo aka “Your Fan For Life”