NEW YORK (WFAN) — Before Derek Jeter was a surefire Hall of Famer, he was just a kid from Kalamazoo.
The New York Yankees captain spoke with WFAN’s Suzyn Waldman about his legendary run in pinstripes — from uncertain beginnings as a first-round pick to the Joe Torre dynasty to his farewell tour, and everything in between — with the curtain set to close on his career Sunday.
It was anything but a smooth start after being drafted out of high school in 1992.
“I was overwhelmed,” Jeter told Waldman. “I was overmatched on the field. And I’m not saying in a cocky kind of way, but it was really the first time that I had been overmatched on the baseball field, coming from a small town in Michigan, and now you’re playing with the best players in the world. So there was a lot of self-doubt, a lot of phone calls home, a lot of long nights. My parents were positive. They told me to stick to it. I ran up their phone bill quite a bit that first year, but I’m happy that I had their support and things turned around.”
Jeter credited his parents — Charles and Dorothy — for instilling a mindset that served him well for two decades in the Big Apple.
“No matter how hard things get, how difficult times may be, you can always try to find a positive,” he said. “Especially playing this game, there’s a lot of failure. And in New York, there’s a lot of scrutiny and a lot of criticism. That’s why I don’t like to hear about it. I try to stay as positive as I can and take at least one good thing from every day.”
Jeter had a lot of good days — many more than most. He’ll walk away from the game with 14 All-Star appearances, the most hits and doubles in Yankees history, and a place at No. 6 on MLB’s all-time hit list.
And then there’s number that matters most to him: five. As in five World Series titles.
“If you’re competing to win, if you don’t win it’s a failure,” Jeter said. “I don’t care how close you get. Close doesn’t count.”
The shortstop will eventually have his No. 2 retired by the Yankees, and his next stop from there will be the Hall of Fame. Some think he’ll be the first unanimous selection; others aren’t so sure. But a first-time selection is considered such a lock that Cooperstown is already preparing for his enshrinement in 2020.
“My dream was to play for the Yankees,” Jeter said. “And everything else that came along with it was something that I never expected. The fans are what make it fun for me and make it fun for us, and the way they’ve treated me in my entire career has been pretty special.”
Suzyn’s interview with Jeter aired in three parts this past week on the WFAN Yankees Radio Network. Listen to it in its entirety here: