NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Yankees captain Derek Jeter says it’s “time for something new.”
And that means he’ll be walking away from the game that made him a New York icon — and a baseball legend.
In a letter posted to his Facebook page, Jeter said he would be retiring after the 2014 season and “could not be more sure” about his decision.
“I know it in my heart,” he wrote. “The 2014 season will be my last year playing professional baseball.”
Yankees general partner Hal Steinbrenner said he received the news Wednesday morning and respects Jeter’s decision. He said he knows his captain wouldn’t walk away unless he really thought things through.
“He is unquestionably one of the greatest Yankees ever. He has meant so much to fans, the organization, my father and our family. I’m glad we have this year to celebrate everything he has meant to us and all the great things he still stands to accomplish,” Steinbrenner said.
The announcement marks the end of an era for Jeter and left some Yankees fans shocked.
“We can’t lose Derek Jeter. That’s our man. What are we going to do?” Dahlia Weinstein told CBS 2’s Tracee Carrasco.
Those sentiments were echoed by Elvin Espinal.
“It’s just sad to see him go and he’s the last one left of the core four and he’s a legendary player,” Espinal said.
The 39-year-old shortstop, a five-time World Series champion, played only 17 games last season due to lingering ankle issues.
“Last year was a tough one for me,” he wrote. “As I suffered through a bunch of injuries, I realized that some of the things that always came easily to me and were always fun had started to become a struggle. The one thing I always said to myself was that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it would be time to move forward.”
He’s a lifetime .312 hitter with 3,316 hits and 1,876 runs scored over 19 seasons, all with the Yankees.
“I’ve experienced so many defining moments in my career: winning the World Series as a rookie shortstop, being named the Yankees captain, closing the old and opening the new Yankee Stadium,” Jeter wrote. “Through it all, I’ve never stopped chasing the next one. I want to finally stop the chase and take in the world.”
As soon as word of Jeter’s decision was confirmed by Major League Baseball, tributes started to pour in from all over social media. Tickets for the Yankees’ final home game of the 2014 season, against Baltimore on Sept. 25, topped out at $11,099 on Stubhub on Wednesday afternoon.
“It has been an incredible honor having a front row seat for one of the great players of all time. Derek has been a winner every step of the way. I am already looking forward to an exciting final chapter of his storied career,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in a statement.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig also issued a statement on Jeter’s impending retirement:
“In the 21-plus years in which I have served as Commissioner, Major League Baseball has had no finer ambassador than Derek Jeter. Since his championship rookie season of 1996, Derek has represented all the best of the National Pastime on and off the field. He is one of the most accomplished and memorable players of his – or any – era,” Selig said.
“Derek is the kind of person that generations have emulated proudly, and he remains an exemplary face of our sport. Major League Baseball looks forward to celebrating his remarkable career throughout the 2014 season,” the commissioner added.
Former teammate Bernie Williams applauded Jeter for doing things his way, which almost always ended up being the right way.
“I’m so happy that Derek will get to go out on his terms — and his way,” Williams said. “He was as special a teammate as any player could ever have. I’m blessed to have played with him. Yankee fans and baseball fans all over the world will have a lot to celebrate this season.”
Derek congrats on a career that was incredible. Enjoy enjoy enjoy life after baseball.
— david wells (@BoomerWells33) February 12, 2014
Jeter said he made up his mind “months ago,” but family and friends convinced him to wait to announce it until he was absolutely sure.
The future Hall of Famer is the last active member of the Yankees’ “Core Four,” the group that was the backbone of the Bombers’ three straight World Series championships from 1998-2000. Jorge Posada called it a career in January 2012, while Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte both retired after the 2013 season.
“Derek Jeter has been a great representative of what the Yankees have stood for over the years,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He has been a team player who has only cared about winning. He has also been a fine example both on and off the field over his long tenure as a Yankee. It has been a real pleasure to manage him and play alongside him.”
Congrats to Derek Jeter on the announcement of his retirement today! A class act & character both on & off the field. A role model to many!
— Joe Torre (@JoeTorre) February 12, 2014
Jeter spoke of how even at a very young age he had a vision of what he wanted his life to become.
“From the time I was a kid, my dream was always very vivid and it never changed: I was going to be the shortstop of the NY Yankees,” Jeter wrote. “It started as an empty canvas more than 20 years ago and now that I look at it, it’s almost complete. In a million years, I wouldn’t have believed just how beautiful it would become.”
Jeter spent much of his online letter thanking the countless numbers of people that helped him along the way, admitting that the grind of his career had impacted many of them as well.
“So many people have traveled along this journey with me and helped me along the way: I want to especially thank The Boss, the Steinbrenner family, the entire Yankees organization, my managers, my coaches, my teammates, my friends, and of course, above all, my family,” Jeter wrote. “They taught me incredible life lessons and are the #1 reason I lasted this long. They may not have been on the field, but they feel they played every game with me, and I think they are ready to call it a career as well.”
The 13-time All-Star and runner-up in the 2006 AL MVP voting waxed poetic about Yankees fans, saying their demands motivated him to be all he could be for two decades.
“They have embraced me, loved me, respected me and have ALWAYS been there for me. This can be a tough, invasive, critical and demanding environment. The people of this city have high expectations and are anxious to see them met,” Jeter wrote. “But it’s those same people who have challenged me, cheered for me, beat me down and picked me back up all at the same time. NY made me stronger, kept me more focused and made me a better, more well-rounded person. For that I will be forever grateful. I never would have imagined playing anywhere else.”
The season of Jeter will soon begin, with many figuring it will be even more of a celebration that what the Yankees just experienced with Rivera.
“For nearly 20 years, there has been no greater ambassador for the game of baseball than Derek Jeter,” said Tony Clark, a former teammate who is the executive director of the MLB Players Association. “Day in and day out, on the world’s greatest stage, and through the peaks and valleys of a 162-game schedule, Derek consistently demonstrates awe-inspiring levels of passion, determination and excellence.
“A champion on and off the field, Derek’s impact cannot be understated. Not only does he make the game better, he makes lives better through his Turn2 charitable foundation. Derek has set the standard that we should all strive to achieve,” Clark added.
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