“Being a Yankee is good enough for me.”
From the moment he stepped up to the podium, Derek Jeter looked uncomfortable. He said he didn’t want a press conference because he didn’t want to be a distraction today – especially because it’s the first day that position players were reporting to camp. He wanted to get his message out the way he chose to do it via Facebook.
He didn’t have a prepared speech and said he just wanted a Q&A.
The first question was the most obvious and the one that’s on everyone’s mind: Why now?
Jeter said he took a lot of time to think about it and that the difficulty of last year made the decision easier. He said that he felt it was the right time. He added that he’s done it for long enough and that he can’t wait to start doing other things.
He reiterated that his decision has nothing to do with how he feels physically. “I feel great and I’m looking forward to playing the entire season.”
He spoke about how great his teammates are, that he’s looking forward to playing with the new guys and he said that hearing positive comments from his teammates is nice.
At one point, Wally Matthews from ESPN New York asked him a question about what he wanted to do when his career was over, which was in his original statement and Jeter razzed him a bit by saying, “Did you not read the letter?” which drew laughs from the press pool.
Jeter explained that he wrote each and every word of his statement. He said he had a lot of notes, that he wished he had brought the notebook he used to show how many thoughts he actually had and that the letter, if he had said everything he wanted to say, could have been 3-4 pages long.
He admitted that he actually wanted to make the announcement months ago but people close to him – family and friends – told him to make sure it (retirement) was something he really wanted to do. And Jeter thought it would be more of a distraction if he hadn’t announced it before the start of the season. He envisioned a lot of questions about it possibly being his last year – directed both at him and his teammates – and having it go on all season so he decided this route would be the best way to go.
He explained that the game of baseball itself never came easy and it was a lot of hard work but that coming to the field was always easy for him. Once the ankle injury happened and the subsequent injuries that he suffered because of the bum ankle kept happening, it made it not as fun anymore and baseball became more like a job that he simply showed up for.
Jeter felt like 2014 would be the last season a few months ago but said he couldn’t pinpoint an exact date or moment of the epiphany.
He said he didn’t talk to Mariano Rivera about retirement but he thinks Mo had an idea that it was a possibility for Jeter. He spoke to his good buddy Jorge Posada a few weeks ago at a golf tournament.
As for 2014, he said wants to try and enjoy each and everyday. He added that the 2014 season will be his chance to enjoy playing baseball and to take in everyone moment of it.
When asked about his ankle, he said it was actually fine at the end of last year but that everything else surrounding it – mainly the other muscles in the leg – was breaking down and that prevented him from playing. He added that he worked harder this offseason to prepare for 2014.
Someone then asked how he wanted to be remembered. Jeter said that he wants to be remembered as someone who played hard and to be remembered as a Yankee because that’s wanted he always wanted to be. He said that lived his dream and he said, “The great thing about being a Yankee is you’re always a Yankee.”
In another funny moment, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports mentioned other breaking down in their retirement press conferences – Mike Schmidt being the prime example – and Jeter said, “You trying to get me to cry Jon?”
For the record, Jeter didn’t cry. He actually seemed annoyed by the attention. At another point, he even told his teammates to go out to practice and not stick around for the press conference.
And Jeter said that while he expects to have fun in 2014, it won’t make him want to come back. He explained that, “The time is now,” and added, “You can’t do this forever.”
Some more notes from the conference:
- He wants to have a family. He has a nephew now and has missed some time with him.
- When Posada left, he started thinking about his own career winding down.
- He thinks he didn’t enjoy baseball as much he should have and he had a message for young players: Try to share every experience with everyone you care about.
- Jeter thinks that being in NY has helped him to not show his emotions and it helps him to keep his emotions in check.
- He wants to play as much as possible. “I want to play every day. This year will be absolutely no different.”
- Jeter tried to call Hal the night before the announcement. “He’s a busy man. He didn’t return my calls.”
- What moment stands out the most? “Every time we win. … If you ask me what stands out the most, it’s winning.” Didn’t single out any specific moment.