An Open Letter to Derek Jeter

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Thanks for being a pro athlete that might not kill my 10-year old son

By Pete Miller, West Orange, NJ

 

Dear Derek,

Emotions are exploding inside of me as your immortal run in Yankee pinstripes comes to an end. They’re making me realize exactly what you’ve meant to me for the better part of 20 years. To me, you weren’t just The Captain. You weren’t just a “class act.” You were a hero. The kind of hero I and legions of other fans will probably never see again.

You are a multimillionaire professional athlete that I would actually consider letting my 10-year-old son be alone with for maybe 30 seconds or so.

I bet you don’t realize how rare that is.

This trust is coming from a deep place. It isn’t just about how you took your job seriously and tried hard to do it well, just like millions of Americans every day and Christ knows how many other people on the planet. Honestly, it’s not even about your onfield performance, which was incredibly, beautifully, consistently okay for most of the 20 seasons you played pro ball. Of course, your occasional swells of awesomeness are the standards of brilliance by which we’ll remember a seemingly really nice guy and a very good baseball player who, without fail, somehow refused to say imbecilic things to reporters while he plied his vocation for seven, sometimes eight months a year. Day in and day out.

Almost every person reading this (or any sports fan at least glancingly familiar with the ALB East) knows why you’re my hero, Derek. It’s about class. That’s the word that both your fans and your worst rivals have always spoken out loud whenever they talk about you. Class should be your middle name. Instead of Sanderson.

It’s the ethical, principled, normal-human manner in which you’ve always conducted yourself on and off the field. Not once—never even once—did you bring horrific, eye-bleeding shame upon yourself, your employer or your loved ones during a full, satisfying career that’s considered long by baseball standards. You never messed up by assaulting or raping or killing anyone or taking banned PEDs or by committing any crime at all. I don’t know how you managed it, but you never even clocked one of your insanely hot girlfriends over the years. I mean, not once did you even get drunk or high and act like a total ass in public.

Not once in a career spanning two decades.

I speak for millions of fans when I say, with heavy heart, we are not going to see that again. Not in my lifetime.

Maybe not ever.

Yes, I know you’d need about a hundred stadiums to hold the average American men in the Northeast alone who’ve had a law-abiding run like that for careers and lives going 20, 30, 40, 50 and many more years. But it’s easy for them. You’ve been a talented multimillionaire athlete long in the national spotlight. You’ve had untold scores of people watching your every move, every moment of the day and night. And you had limitless opportunities to do whatever messed-up shit with busloads of coke fiends or supermodels or whatever at any minute you wanted, with just a crook of your finger. Regular guys don’t have those options.

More importantly, just like every other extremely wealthy professional athlete, you had millions of dollars to do that messed-up shit comfortably in private or to at least cover your tracks as if you had a brain in your head. Or hell, even find other stimulating but non-scandalous shit to do when people were highly likely to see you. Here’s what sets you apart, Derek: unlike almost every other pro athlete, you actually chose one of those latter options.

God bless you.

God bless everything you stand for.

I was born in Queens and have been a Yankees fan for all of my 49 years. I’ve had heroes before you, but they weren’t the same. Sometimes I still have dreams about Mickey Mantle showing up at my door. Just showing up out of the blue. “Dad, it’s The Mick!” my son yells to me from downstairs. I’m like, “Holy shit, keep him here Connor! We need to get a picture and ask him to stay for dinner! And until I get downstairs stay away from him!”

My dad loved Mickey Mantle. I would give my left arm to have seen him play. I would have given him my liver in two seconds. But let him watch my son for five minutes while I ran out for milk? No fucking way. I’d come home and my liquor would be gone and my kid would probably be in the back of a swerving Impala going 90 down route 280 while Mantle had no clue he’s there cause he’s got three whores crammed in the front seat.

It’s not Mickey’s fault. Just look around today. I do not see a single grown man who is playing a child’s game for about a hundred times what a brain surgeon makes that, on a bet or at gunpoint, I would let drive my kid to the Carvel.

I’m serious. I don’t.

I can look back to one. Almost. Thurman Munson. I would have let him hug my kid. Hug him right in front of me for 20 or 30 seconds. But that’s as far as it goes.

Let me put in the clearest way I can, Derek. I have a neighbor, Walt. He’s a good guy. He looks like this.

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He’s about my age and has a kid that’s just a little older than Connor. They’re friends. We’ll sometimes take turns driving them to school. I don’t mind if Connor goes with Walt in a car for an hour or two. When my son yells, “Can I go with Jake and Mr. Borman to Carvel?” I’m like, sure. I don’t know Walt extremely well but he and Jodie have always been decent to me and Alison and he’s also my insurance guy. He got some award from his office last year for which he got Yankee tickets, coincidentally, and he gave me two. He’s thinking of running for town council in West Orange and I’ll vote for him if he does.

Walt only drinks light beer and he keeps his yard nice and he gathers up my garbage containers when they roll in the street. I think Walt’s a pretty moral guy.

Walt is not my hero, of course. Not by a long shot. You are. Because when I look at you, Derek, I basically think, there’s Walt but with a huge amount of athletic talent and a few Bentleys in his garage and a high-visibility job with the potential for extremely dramatic successes and failures that provide adrenaline-pumping circus for me and my family and a cynical nation.

You didn’t just play baseball really well and bank about eighty grand a game. You are a good dude.

A good dude maybe almost like Walt.

That means If you drove Connor to the mall, I’d be no less than 90 percent sure I would see my son again alive. (It’s maybe 99 percent with Walt, but I know him personally.) Every other living professional athlete? Not even close.

Cal Ripken, Jr., I’d give it maybe 75 percent. The Manning brothers, maybe 60. Every other jackass is in the thirties or lower.

Many of these men raise millions of dollars for cancer research and other charities and visit handicapped kids a few times a year. Just like you. But you’re probably the only one I’d actually consider letting my 10-year old son sit with in a diner booth for one unsupervised minute.

That says more than you’ll ever know.

That’s why you’re my hero.

Never once, Derek, have you—you—flagrantly done something terrible and disgusting that triggered the small part of my brain that’s hyper lucid to seize me in my tracks, squeeze the breath out of me and force me to inwardly sob for mankind, like I do during those naked moments when I contemplate that Alex Rodriguez was given a contract for $275 million for 10 years, my brother Jack can no longer afford his home in Floral Park by fixing dialysis machines and I am wearing a $100 Yankees jersey.

I love you, Derek Jeter.

Connor and Alison and Walt and Jodie love you, too.

Enjoy your retirement. Just not too much. Not in ways that might get in the paper or…you know I mean.

Forever yours,

Pete Miller

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