I’m Not Ready to Say Goodbye

 

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By: Connor Lenahan

I’ve spent the last two hours in my bed just recovering from the news I got via ESPN and every Yankee fan on my Twitter feed. This upcoming season will be the final one for Derek Jeter; the finale to a legendary career that spanned two decades. I’m not entirely certain how I feel though.

On one hand I’m a realist. Jeter is going to turn 40 years old during the 2014 campaign. He’s showing his age too. Last year Jeter played in only seventeen games while trying to recover from multiple leg injuries including the broken ankle (that I have been convinced was actually a broken tibia for years, a much more significant injury) he suffered in the 2012 ALCS. I think I knew the moment he grabbed his ankle in agony, a feeling I know all too well, that his career was reaching its end. Jeter is no longer a kid. He’s a man. He’s ancient in the baseball world. He was drafted two years before I was born and made his debut before I turned one year old. I’m turning twenty in August. Jeter has enjoyed an incredible run, one that will culminate with a plaque in Cooperstown in 2019 without a doubt. Giving him a victory lap like Mariano Rivera was deservedly gifted last season is an idea that no one is going to object to. It’s time for Jeter to move on though. His career wasn’t going to last forever.

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            But that’s the lesser half of my brain talking. That’s what I’m using as a way to combat my emotions from the outside world. Truth is that I’m immediately heartbroken over this. Derek Jeter is far and away my favorite athlete in history. I don’t want him to leave. I can’t have him leave. He is my life. I often joke that I wasn’t raised a certain religion, but I was raised to worship Derek Jeter. This really isn’t a joke either. My earliest memories include watching Jeter captain the Yankees to four rings by the time I was entering first grade. I saw him play in a World Series in person. Game 1 of the 2003 Series against the Marlins; It was eleven years ago and I sat in the second to last row of the original Yankee Stadium but I was still happy to see Derek Jeter on the biggest stage in baseball, a stage that he felt at home on.

Derek Jeter has been a central figure in my life for as long as my memory lasts. He’s been my idol for longer than I could speak. I’ve looked up to him from the first time I could raise my head up. I’m not ready to let go of him. It can’t be time. I know there’s a day when we all need to grow up, but dammit that day isn’t supposed to be here yet. I don’t want to live in a world without Derek Jeter at shortstop. I don’t recognize the Yankees without him. I watched the players I grew up with leave one by one: Scott Brosius, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera. I was torn up about saying goodbye to Rivera last year. I shed a tear or two, something that I haven’t done in a long time over sports. I wasn’t ready. He meant a great deal to me, yet it was still a fraction of what Jeter means to me. I’m not going to be able to do this.

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            I guess it’s fitting though. One last run. A chance to say goodbye to the best ambassador baseball has potentially ever had. A chance to respect someone who did everything the right way. Gave his team everything on every play. Captained the Yankees to five championships during one of the most competitive eras in baseball history. Will retire as one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. A hero to not just Yankees fans, but baseball fans like me that grew up with the Captain. It allows for a look back on his unbelievable career. A chance to revisit “The Flip,” “The Dive,” the five championships, the home run for the 3,000th hit, and everything in between.

I’m not ready to say goodbye just yet. I’m rambling I know. I just don’t want to accept reality just yet. The world still has Derek Jeter leading off for the New York Yankees. Still has Bob Sheppard’s voice announcing “Number Two” every at bat. Still has my hero on the field. But soon it won’t. I looked today and found something that brought me as close to tears as the news Jeter was retiring. The culmination of this one last season will be a three game road trip to Boston. I will pay infinity dollars to be in Fenway that night. I need to be. I need my dad along side me. I need to be able to see him at least one more time. For someone that takes sports far too seriously, this is my greatest priority. I’ll keep it together for now, I think. I hope at least.

But come September 28th, it’s over. I’m not ready. I’m not sure I ever will be. But we’ve got time to prepare. I’ll be celebrating Derek every day until then.

Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is the founder and editor-in-chief of Connorlenahan.com. He is a freshman at Boston University, majoring in journalism. He can be emailed at lenahan@bu.edu