Derek Jeter Epitome of Leadership


He is the Captain Now

By John Ventola

Pardon me for interweaving my love of baseball with a tremendous Tom Hanks movie from last year. It happened during my REM sleep last night and while I would not describe it as a nightmare, it did startle me enough to awaken me from a Derek Jeter baseball induced sleep stage. My brief glimpse and resultant memory shows Jeter sitting in the Yankee dugout in late September with a little known Cuban shortstop poking a baseball bat into Jeter’s rib cage, mumbling in broken English, “Look at me, look at me. I am the Captain now”.

Derek Jeter, the Yankees shortstop for the past twenty years, has been the captain of the team for the last eleven years, the longest tenured captain in team history. He has helped lead the Yankees to five World Series championships, and seven American League pennants while being selected or voted to 14 All Star teams. While his


National Pastime

teammates shuffled in to New York in response to the team’s needs and owner George Steinbrenner’s open checkbook, Jeter was the steady, constant piece of the successful franchise. His reliability was rewarded when he was named the Yankees fourteenth baseball captain, the eleventh officially recognized for on-field effort, before the 2003 season. With that fact tucked away in my baseball trivia bank, I realized immediately that my imaginary young Cuban would have to put in about ten years of solid major league play before even being considered captain material.

The Yankees franchise does not take the Captain designation lightly. Babe Ruth was the club’s third named captain, but he was stripped of that title when he went into the stands after a heckler. In 1935 Lou Gehrig was named captain and he served in that capacity until he was forced into retirement four years later with the disease that bears his name today. After Gehrig, there were no Yankee captains for thirty seven years. In 1976, Steinbrenner named catcher Thurman Munson captain. Munson died tragically in a plane crash two years later. Gehrig, Munson, pitcher Ron Guidry (ten years after his unbelievable ’78 season), first baseman Don Mattingly, and Jeter are the only Yankees captains to play their entire careers in pinstripes.

Last week’s 2014 All-Star game showcased Jeter and what he has meant not only to the Yankees, but also to the game, and organizations outside of the sport. His Turn 2 Foundation is not only a catchy name, it has motivated youth to Turn 2 a healthy lifestyle and away from drugs and alcohol. Jeter established Turn 2 during his first year


Jeter made diving stop to open All Star game

in the major leagues. At the All Star event, he responded in typical Jeter fashion by making an outstanding defensive play on the first hitter of the game and going two for two at the plate.

At age 40, twenty years of the major league grind have taken their toll on Jeter’s physical abilities, but his passion and love of the game are still very much evident. He hustles on each play, he runs out every ground ball, he is the consummate example of how baseball should be played. No bat flips, basket catches, or attempts to show up opponents. No steroids. Not in this captain’s baseball DNA. Steady, not flash, was his game. As a baseball purist, it was refreshing and wonderful to watch.

This weekend’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony will include managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre, pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddox, and first baseman Frank Thomas, Each are deserving of having their busts put into the Hall, but while Cox (Braves), Torre (Yankees), Glavine (Braves), Thomas (White Sox) will have the noted team emblems on their caps, La Russa, and Maddux, will not have a team designation.

La Russa had great success with the St. Louis Cardinals, but also managed the Oakland A’s and the Chicago White Sox. Maddux won more than half of his 355 wins for the Atlanta Braves, but made his initial mark with the Chicago Cubs, and also toiled for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres late in his career. Torre, who had an accomplished career as a player also (hitting 252 home runs, .297 lifetime, and winning one batting title), chose the Yankees cap. He also managed the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, and Los Angeles Dodgers, but he skippered the Yankees to four World Series championships.

Jeter is the captain now. He will be until the end of this baseball season. After the mandatory five year waiting period, Jeter will be a first ballot Hall of Famer, just like Glavine, Maddox, and Thomas this year. And his HOF bust will bear the NY cap emblem proudly during his enshrinement ceremony.

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6 thoughts on “Derek Jeter Epitome of Leadership

    1. John Ventola Post author

      Keep tuning in Tom, hope you find some interesting stuff here. Looking forward to South Bend trip. Hope you had a great birthday.

  1. Pat Brady

    Really nice writing, John. And describing one of my favorite Yankees of all time. You can tell that good LSU education left a lasting mark on you.

    1. John Ventola Post author

      Thanks for the nice comments. Yes, enjoying my hobby. Blog gives me an outlet for expression on my favorite subject. Bonnie going to meet us for the Michigan game? See you soon.

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