Where Fantasy Becomes Reality


Jeter is enshrined in Cooperstown forever as fans look back on a legacy worth remembering. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Colin Loughran, Contributing Writer

How does one create a lasting legacy? What must be done to build the kind of life that seems like a fantasy? These are the kind of questions that sports seem to inspire. No athlete better encapsulated the pursuit of answers more than former shortstop and New York Yankee captain Derek Sanderson Jeter.

Just last week, the Pinstripe legend was officially inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. After a long delay due to COVID-19, Jeter finally had his day, and it was just as special as his entire career. 

During his speech, the captain highlighted the ways in which family has impacted him. For Jeter, “family” was not limited to his parents, grandparents, wife, daughters or other immediate relatives. Instead, his definition of family wholeheartedly included current Hall of Famers, teammates and members of the Yankee organization, such as the late Mr. Steinbrenner.

Jeter eloquently explained that all of these individuals uniquely helped him attain and maintain a high level of success in Major League Baseball. In essence, he connected all of these people to his boyhood fantasy of becoming the Yankee shortstop. This is exactly the same kind of class and gratitude that Jeter displayed throughout his time in the big leagues. He always embraced the spotlight but was never so boastful as to claim every victory was solely his doing. 

Even as Jeter gladly shared his induction into the Hall of Fame, it was hard not to recount the many moments in which he rose to the occasion on the field. Every Yankee fan has their favorite “Derek Jeter moment.” Such signature memories include, “the flip” against the Oakland Athletics in the 2001 ALDS, “the dive” against the Boston Red Sox in 2004, “the Mr. November Home Run” in game four of a post 9/11 2001 World Series and — this writer’s favorite — “the grand finale” in which he hit a walkoff single during his last Yankee Stadium at-bat. Each of these moments helped define Jeter’s career, and cement his status as both an all-time Yankee great and a Hall of Famer.

So what creates a lasting legacy? More specifically, how did Jeter create his own? One could simplistically point to the previously mentioned moments of glory, his career 3,465 hits, five World Series championships or 14 All-Star game appearances. However, to do so would under-appreciate the reality Jeter was able to cultivate, and misunderstand why the captain was so beloved by New Yorkers. 

As Mr. November himself explained to his daughters during his Hall of Fame address, “Your dad was far from perfect. I made my fair share of mistakes on and off the field, but through it all I tried to do the right thing and I found something I was passionate about and I worked harder than anyone else. I didn’t take any shortcuts to achieve it.” 

Revered for his humility, work ethic and professionalism, Derek Jeter unequivocally proved that a fantasy could become reality. This could happen anywhere, even in a city as demanding as New York, so long as one is willing to be the hardest worker in the room, maintain a steady disposition — even in times of turmoil — and have an unrelenting belief that these habits will build a legacy worth remembering.