I’m not your typical New York Yankees hater. Meaning, I’m not a typical human being or baseball follower, because I’ve never really hated the Yankees. In fact, I have always found them to be quite fascinating and exciting, and an invaluable piece of American history. When my brother and I visited New York in 2006, we suited up in Yankees t-shirts and hats, scored some bleacher seats (in plain sight of my all-time fave, Mariano Rivera, in the bullpen), and scrawled on cardboard with Sharpie, “Wish you were here, Dad!” That photo brought tears to the eyes of my dad – a true blue Mariners fan, but more so respecter of the wider world of sports – the following Christmas morning.
Has the Yankees organization been embroiled in its share of scandals? Sure. Does its payroll ignite a whole new definition for the term outrageous? In most universes, yes. But sometimes you have to think outside the Bronx.
Last night was one of those moments.
It was Derek Jeter’s last home game after a remarkable 20 seasons (insert stats, records and rings here) with the NYY. And if you haven’t seen his bottom-of-the-ninth game-ending play and the emotional walk around the field that followed, stop reading this right now and come back after you’ve spent six minutes on YouTube.
My dad taught me to sound intelligent when talking baseball (Dad, it has been many, many years since I’ve asked someone which team they’re voting for, thanks to you). But more importantly, my dad has taught me – by modeling it – to get emotional about sports. They are one of the world’s most universal passageways to the heart of humanity.
And last night was a human moment. By now you’ve seen the video, so I offer no spoiler protection. Derek Jeter didn’t need that walk-off hit to seal his legacy. But once in a while, a near-perfect story gets the cherry-on-top of a near-perfect ending, and his last play at home was one of those moments.
Life is long, or so we hope, and in it we often find ourselves needing many, many chances (162 a year sounds about right to me) to set our record straight. That’s what I love about baseball. Like life, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and you need to keep your batteries charged because you never know when you’re going to be called into extra innings.
You beat yourself up over the errors, the embarrassments, the mistakes and missed opportunities. Once in a while you might fly off the handle with some four-letter words, and you just hope those moments aren’t caught on camera.
At the end of life, like at the end of a long, long baseball season – let alone career – I think all any of us can hope for is that we batted above 300 and made some clutch plays where it counts. That our low points and bloopers are forgiven, and people see us for what we brought to the table. For how we inspired our team.
Derek Jeter wasn’t waiting for a walk-off win to feel content in his career. That was simply icing on the cake. It’s the cake we spend our whole life baking – adding and subtracting ingredients each day, making it taste as good as we can before we put it in the oven – that counts.
So don’t wait for the “Walk-off” of life – whatever that may mean to you – to make it count. You’ll probably never win the lottery, or receive a standing ovation in a stadium, or hear your song on the radio. Maybe you will, but more likely, it will be all the runs and hits and slaps on the behind from teammates that will make you look back at the end of your life and say, “good game.”
And that’s one of the best lessons I’ve learned from sports.
Well, those are the 500 words my husband wanted by 10am (600 and counting actually…). Hope you’re happy, Aaron. My face is still a little sticky from crying like a baby through that Jeter video, and my coffee has gone cold… but it was worth it. Getting emotional over sports always is.