SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – With apologies to Kirk Gibson’s Twitter account, Derek Jeter was the top story in baseball this week.
The shortstop announced he was retiring following the end of this season, his 20th with the New York Yankees.
“I’ve always said he’s been my absolute favorite from day one. Just from the type of person he is — I mean no matter if it’s one day in the big leagues or a 20-year veteran, that guy is as cool as possibly could be,” Aaron Hill said. “He did everything right, especially on such a big stage like New York. It’s so impressive the way he went about everything.”
Hill and Jeter shared the same field just once. They were the American League’s starting middle infielders for the 2009 MLB All-Star Game.
Other than that moment in St. Louis, though, Hill mostly competed against Jeter in the AL East during the second-baseman’s time with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Different story, different experience for Eric Chavez.
He and Jeter were teammates for two seasons.
“Just one of the guys, really. Wasn’t real vocal. Never held team meetings. Never yelled at somebody,” said Chavez, remembering his time in New York in 2011 and 2012. “It’s just the way he played the game. The way he showed up to play every single day. Got his work in. His routine was the same every single day. It’s almost like you just hit the reset button for him. Just played the game the right way and approached it the right way and that’s the way he led.”
But Jeter’s on-field accomplishments — the 13 All-Star appearances, five World Series titles and 1996 Rookie of the Year award — pale in comparison to how he carried himself off the field, according to both Chavez and Hill.
“(He) did it the right way and in a city that’s as big and under the microscope as New York,” Chavez said. “He was really clean. Never controversial; said all the right things to the media.”
“What a career,” Hill added. “He’s the guy that you don’t ever think is going to ever retire and all of the sudden he’s retiring. That’s one of the greats. That’s who every generation should model themselves after.
“It’s sad to see him go, but at the same time, it’ll be fun to see everybody pay their respects to him this year wherever he goes and for a long time I’m sure.”