“I’ve got the same seat as someone in the front row,” Derek Jeter says in the first installment of his ESPN documentary series.
“I want to compete. I want to play.”
After one episode of “The Captain,” it’s clear where the forme Yankees captain got his drive. Whether it was growing up biracial in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and learning the hard way about racism or spending summers with his die-hard Yankees fan grandmother in New Jersey, it was practically written as fate. Derek Sanderson Jeter was a different kind of hard worker.
In this case, a hard worker who was born to be a New York Yankee.
And just like “The Last Dance” showed some dark underside of Michael Jordan’s story, “The Captain” appears set to do the same with Jeter. He grew up a lifelong Yankee fan, but his being drafted sixth overall felt almost backhanded. Up until the start of the 1992 MLB Draft, Jeter expected to be picked first or fifth.
Fast forward a year later, and he committed 56 errors at shortstop in his first minor league season. The upside was that he met future teammates, co-champions, and eventual lifelong friends Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte.
We rarely see this side of Jeter. He’s usually so stoic and stone-faced, not showing much emotion at all. Just that coy smile every now and again, and otherwise focusing on the game.
Now, thanks to this series, fans have seen footage of the Hall of Famer making mistakes in the minor leagues. Even better, we’ve now seen a skinny Jeter playing for Single-A Greensboro and arguing with an umpire.
The man was a bastion of greatness and excellence for a whole generation of sports fans in the 1990s. Jeter wasn’t just the New York Yankees, but baseball as a whole. He somehow transcended the game even as he played in baseball’s largest market. And yet, he’s always been just as human as so many athletic greats before him.
This is the significance of a Jeter docuseries. For so long, he was so notoriously private that his life off the field was almost unknown. No telling what was the tabloids versus reality. Jeter the person existed, and yet was more so a myth.
Not anymore. In six more episodes, the layers will peel back more and more. Jeter is finally speaking out about it all, and on his terms.