WIKIPEDIA COMMONS Yankees shortstop Deter Jeter retired on Sunday after an illustrious 20-year career in New York.
Yankees shortstop Deter Jeter retired on Sunday after an illustrious 20-year career in New York.

There, in his Gatorade-soaked uniform, he crouched on the lip of the outfield grass between short and second — the same area of the field he had taken countless times in his 20-year career. But this time it was different, and all of Yankee Stadium knew it.

The flash of thousands of cameras created one final spotlight for the captain. People wanted to preserve the moment — not only the walk-off hit, but the end of an illustrious career.

When Derek Jeter announced his retirement in February, the sports world prepared to say goodbye to the Yankee great. Throughout the 2014 season, each team honored him in its own way when New York came in for a road series. Surfboards, cupcakes and cowboy boots were just the beginning. All the gifts and ceremonies led up to the final two events of the Jeter farewell tour: his last home game against the Orioles and his final game on the road against archrival Boston.

In true Jeter fashion, both games were instant classics.

The Orioles and Yankees were tied in the bottom of the ninth in his final game at Yankee Stadium. Jeter stepped up to bat with a man on second and lined a single into right field, scoring the runner from second with his classic inside-out swing. As he rounded first, Jeter leapt and raised both hands. The roar of the adoring Yankee crowd was a fitting ending to a storied career.

After 2,746 games, Derek is officially retired. He will never wear pinstripes again. He will never bat second in the lineup or make his famous over-the-shoulder throw from shortstop to first. This season also marked the last time we will ever hear the late Bob Shepherd introduce a Yankee again.

Where Jeter ranks among the all-time great baseball players is uncertain. However, he is undoubtedly a Hall of Famer. He won five World Series, five Gold Gloves and appeared in 14 All-Star Games. He has a .310 career batting average and totaled 3,464 hits.  But Jeter means more to baseball than his career statistics.

Jeter was never ejected in 20 years. He always faced the media, even after poor performances or heartbreaking losses. He never spoke ill of his teammates. He always tried to keep his personal life private. And through it all, he played for one team; he was always a Yankee.

So when Derek Jeter walked off the field for the last time on Sunday, Major League Baseball and sports lost an icon that was more than his on-the-field contributions. We lost a player who could captivate the sporting world through his play and also through his character.

Is there another “Derek Jeter” in sports? A player who has been with the same team his entire career, who has won numerous championships, all while simultaneously achieving historic personal statistics.

While many athletes meet two of the three requirements, there is only one other active player in the NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL who meets all three: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

In his first year as a starter, Brady led the New England Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory in 2001. Since then, he has appeared in four more Super Bowls, winning two Lombardi Trophies, and has appeared in two others. He was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player twice — and in 2010 was the first unanimous winner of the award. In 2007 he was selected as the Male Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press.

But even Brady does not perfectly embody all of Jeter’s characteristics. He speaks his mind when he believes Patriots management has made a mistake (i.e. this offseason’s controversial Logan Mankins trade to Tampa Bay). At times, he has a bad temper, especially when the stakes are high. Lastly, he and his supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen are frequently in the tabloids.

Regardless, Jeter and Brady are both polarizing players. In their hometowns of New York and Boston, respectively, they are bigger than life, the face of the city. Outside, both Brady and Jeter are largely antagonized. Despite this, most fans and the media respect them. They are perhaps the last incarnation of the “old-school” athlete.

Years ago, players consistently spent their entire careers with one team, won championships and produced phenomenal statistics. All the while, they became integral to their home cities. For all these reasons, the public adored them.

However, that is no longer the norm. Athletes have criminal records. They constantly change teams, signing with whichever team will pay them the most.
With Jeter now gone, and Brady rapidly declining, sports needs another “old-school athlete.” Fans need to be reminded that loyalty and class behavior are not things of the past for the athletes we support.

Perhaps baseball will be the sport to produce that icon. The MLB is currently littered with talented players: Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw to name a few. All these players have the potential to evolve and hold a similar legendary status as Derek Jeter.

These aforementioned players are potential Hall of Famers. They will win awards and set records. Odds are, at least one will win a World Series Championship.

But there are many components to become the next Jeter: Win over the fans, win over the media, win championships and more. It is without a doubt a tall task.

On Sunday, Jeter walked off the field, and the world took notice. All recognized the impact he had on sports and acknowledged the void he will leave.

The 2014 playoffs start tonight and will mark the beginning of baseball without Jeter. But the playoffs are also a time when new heroes are born. Here’s to hoping that another Jeter emerges. soon.

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