I’m not a Yankees fan, never have been.
I have never been to Yankee Stadium, and I’ve only seen the Yankees play once, here in Denver.
But I love Derek Jeter.
And I owe that to my dad.
My dad is a great guy. He has worked hard all his life, and from the time he was a boy, he pursued his dreams. He graduated high school in the late fifties, and he wanted to be a part of the burgeoning space program. He served in the navy and then worked at the missile silos in Wyoming. He got married at twenty-one and had his first child (of five) eleven months later. But he still pursued his dreams. He went to college while he worked, eventually getting an electrical engineering degree. And then he got a job at Martin-Marietta, where he helped to put the first man on the moon.
Through the years my dad has also made sure to always provide for his family, and he regularly gives to charity. He has great integrity and would never intentionally hurt anyone. He also instilled in me a love of sports, including baseball. Over the years, as we would chat about different players, he would point out the players that he heard were doing good things, those that weren’t getting into trouble, those that were helping out in the community. And that made an impact on me. In a subtle way my dad was teaching me about values through his own love of sports.
As an adult, I find I am continually drawn to those players who demonstrate great character, and way back in the late nineties, I started hearing about this player named Derek Jeter. Now you need to know that I live in Colorado and I follow the Colorado Rockies, and back then the Internet wasn’t what it is now and I didn’t have all the cable channels to see East Coast games, so even though Derek Jeter was a huge name when he was called up to the Yankees, I certainly didn’t know it.
But I started to follow his career, and I was immediately impressed with not only his playing, but his character. He had those qualities that my dad had demonstrated: loyalty, integrity, generosity, care for others, a commitment to family and friends. He also isn’t so big that he can’t sign an autograph. How do I know this? When the Yankees came to Denver a few years ago, I was outside the hotel. Jeter came out and I wished him a happy birthday (it was three days early). Jeter could’ve blown me off, but he didn’t. He turned around and signed my baseball, and he was friendly in doing so.
Jeter’s played with the same team his whole career. He looks for his parents before every game. He has a charitable foundation that has raised more than twelve million dollars to help promote healthy lifestyles for kids, and to help treat and prevent substance abuse among our youth. Even though he could say bad things about George Steinbrenner, Derek chooses the high road. There’s a lot to be said for these actions.
And Jeter followed his dreams. He wanted to play for the Yankees since he was a kid. He dedicated much of his youth to work hard and make that dream come true. Just like my dad did. Jeter is headed for the Hall of Fame. I wish there was a Hall of Fame for dads, because my dad would be in it.
I know Derek Jeter is not perfect, and rumors surround him. I know my dad’s not perfect. But I choose to see the good in my dad, just like I do with Derek Jeter. As I pursue my own dream of writing, I create heroes in my books, people who I aspire to be like. As far as I’m concerned Derek Jeter and my dad are heroes, and I strive every day to be more like them.