By Father Gabe Costa
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Father Jack Radano is a lifelong Yankees fan. He spent many years laboring at the Vatican and is presently a professor at nearby Seton Hall University. I asked him to give his thoughts on Derek Jeter’s last year.
The 2014 season, as the whole world seems to have known, was Derek Jeter’s last season as Yankee shortstop, the culmination of 20 years at that position. His batting average for the 2014 season was about 50 points lower than his overall career average, which in itself indicates that it was not one of this great player’s better seasons. But in other ways, the unfolding of events shows that there were many other aspects which made Jeter’s last year important in many other ways: for baseball, for society and for family values.
His last year was good for baseball in a number of ways. For one thing, baseball celebrated Jeter’s professional way of playing the game. As the Yankees worked through their schedule, facing other teams throughout the country in their home stadiums, those teams said farewell to him through gifts. Their fans, as did Yankees fans at Yankee Stadium, congratulated Jeter, calling out his name and clearly expressing their appreciation for his consistently professional approach to the game. Jeter’s continuing efforts over the years to give his all to the game respected the rights of the fans, who often paid high costs for tickets.
Baseball benefitted, too, from the fact that in this last year, because of his high levels of performance in previous years, Jeter was able to reach for various records to add to the records he had already achieved. Those fascinated by the statistics of the game watched as he passed greats such as Carl Yastrzemski and Honus Wagner on the all-time hits list, finishing sixth. Only five other players in the history of baseball, all Hall of Famers (with the exception of Pete Rose), have more hits than Jeter. He passed Lou Gehrig on the Yankees all-time doubles list. He passed other Hall of Famers in a number of other categories, even if not in the top 10. He was second only to Omar Vizquel on the list of those who played the most games at shortstop in baseball history. He tops the list of players who did that for one team. There were many other types of records that he achieved this year.
Baseball and society also benefited by being reminded that players — especially those who benefit from large salaries — should give back to the community in generous ways. One way that Jeter did this was through his Turn 2 Foundation. On a number of occasions, the gifts he was given by other teams included substantial checks to support this foundation. On the day he was honored by the Yankees, many people who have benefited from this foundation participated and were introduced to the thousands of fans present.
Finally, there is family. Jeter’s family was often present during his games at Yankee Stadium. He honored his family by making them a part of his success in baseball. Their constant presence was a great testimony to the importance of family. We all need to celebrate family. This year, his final year as a player, Derek Jeter did that very well, for all of us to see.
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