Derek Jeter was always peering toward the future. If he was an All-Star one year, he was looking to be one again the year after. When the Yankees would win the World Series, which they did five times when he played for them, he already was anticipating the next season, the next ring. And when he retired from baseball, he pursued his path to ownership, eventually becoming CEO of the Marlins.
But even though he’s had two years to prepare for his Hall of Fame induction — the ceremony was postponed last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic — this is something Jeter isn’t anticipating.
Oh, he’s looking forward to the Sept. 8 ceremony — that much was clear during the news conference he held with reporters Thursday — but he’s also trying valiantly to stay focused on the present.
"As strange as this may sound, I’m trying not to think about it because I just want to go there and experience it and experience it for the first time," he said. "I went to Mariano’s [Rivera] induction a couple years ago and that was the first time I had been to Cooperstown in years, since I was very young . . . I’m looking forward to getting up there and going to the museum and meeting up with the Hall of Famers and spending some time with them. And then, obviously, the ceremony and speech, and those are the things that I’m trying to keep out of my mind because I do want to go in there with no preconceived notions of what may happen, and I want to experience it and try to enjoy it."
This apparently includes finishing his speech, which he said he is still working on, even though it’s generally supposed to be submitted about a month in advance. It’s been a painstaking process, and a private one, and he’s still trying to get it perfect.
"It’s something I’ve tried to take my time with, write down notes," he said. "I didn’t want help from anyone, I didn’t want anyone to see it before I deliver it . . . You’re talking about a speech that’s 10, 15 minutes. It’s kind of hard to cover your entire career in that short period of time. I’m still working on that."
In addition to the five World Series wins, he was the Yankees' captain — the role given to him by George Steinbrenner, and one he took seriously. He was a 14-time All-Star, a World Series MVP, a five-time Gold Glove winner and a Roberto Clemente Award recipient. He was just one vote shy of being a unanimous selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame and would have been only the second player to earn that honor besides Rivera. His iconic play — the flip to home plate in the 2001 ALDS that staved off a sweep by the Athletics and eventually led to the Yankees turning the series around and advancing — follows him wherever he goes, he said.
He has been credited, by teammates and opponents alike, as someone who did it right.
"I tried to play the game the right way. I tried to play hard," he said. "I tried to play hard every single day and I felt that was my responsibility, and any time someone mentions your name and playing the game the right way, it makes you feel good. It’s humbling because a lot of organizations, I’ve tried to beat them throughout the years, and for them to have respect for how you play the game, that makes you feel really good."
Doubly so when it becomes official on Wednesday.