Derek Jeter had no idea what the outcome of that game would be. I am sure there were several exit strategies that could have taken place as the game drew to a close. Manager Joe Girardi had his own plan, and it always involved Jeter staying in for the whole game. At 40 years old he is still as vital a member of the team in many ways as in his first season. (if you doubt that you must not have seen the 9th inning last night) If the Yankees had remained in the lead, he may have been met on the field by the other members of the Core Four, as in the beautiful exit of Mariano Rivera just last year when Jeter and Pettitte went to the mound. They were there last night, his former teammates: Rivera, Pettitte, and his best friend Jorge Posada. So were many others who were close to him over the years. One plan was to have them exit into the tunnel to the clubhouse together, symbolizing Jeter's imminent retirement.
But the lead did not last and so play continued in the last home game this season at Yankee Stadium. Jeter, clearly touched by the moment, managed to steel his emotions and do what he has done better than most for 20 seasons: play baseball.
In his final game at The Stadium, he taught us all again to just keep going. Through his grand Farewell Tour, where at every stop he was showered with gifts, donations to his beloved Turn 2 Foundation, and the accolades of a career that only and always traveled the high road, he grew more and more aware of the day when he would say goodbye. But the focus was always on winning. He just kept going and never stopped to be anything but a man of integrity.
So as I have had this week (or 13 days) where I have been on the mountaintop and somewhere near the valley, where I have had things go as planned and where I have been totally blindsided, where I have been both an observer and the observed, I will take a lesson from Derek Jeter: I will continue to just be myself.
In his post-game interview Jeter said that the only thing he wanted to take with him from Yankee Stadium was the memory of the view from his position as shortstop. That when he went out there after the game, he said a prayer of gratitude and took a last look. He said he always prayed before every game as well. It struck me then that we never heard anything about him praying before. I'm not surprised to know that he relies on God- just look at how he has lived his life. He has tried to be no more than a good ball player and a person who remained above the fray. He has done just that. I knew that he had served as best man in Posada's wedding, Posada being a man of deep faith, as are of course, Rivera and Pettitte. I was pleased to know that he prayed and I can only hope that he shares a faith that will carry him through the next phase of his life on earth as well as carry him into the arms of our Savior one day. As he remembers his view from the position where he out-played and out-lasted so many, he will do so from a leader's perspective, a captain's perspective. He will look back and know that he remained a person of character. Respect.
None of us knows what will transpire between our beginning and our end. But it's how we conduct ourselves, how we act and react, how we treat each other - and ourselves- that will determine how we look back on our lives and how others view us. We can all learn from Jeter's example in some way- work hard, stay focused, give back, and pray at the beginning and at the end. And always treat each other and yourself, with respect.