At one point during today’s press conference, Derek Jeter stopped a question before it finished and looked to his manager, who was sitting in front of all of Jeter’s teammates to the right side of the podium.
“Hey Joe,” Jeter said. “Hold on. If these guys have to go work, please go, go work. Don’t feel as though you have to be forced to be here.”
As expected, Jeter handled today’s press conference with class and occasional humor, but he requested that we think of it more as a question-and-answer session, not any sort of official announcement (his opening statement is in the video above). Jeter didn’t like the idea of pulling his team out of practice. He didn’t seem comfortable answering questions about his place in the game and his spot in Yankees history. He just wanted to explain himself and move into the season that’s ahead.
He didn’t seem overly emotional, but would you expect anything else?
“You trying to get me to cry?” Jeter said, to a lot of laughter. “If that’s the thing, just spit it out. Yeah, I’m emotional, because it’s kind of difficult because we still have a season to play. It might be different if it was at the end of the year. Yeah, I have feelings. I’m not emotionally stunted. There’s feelings there, but I think I’ve just been pretty good at hiding my emotions throughout the years. I try to have the same demeanor each and every day. But it’s different. It’s not the end of the season yet. We’ve still got a long way to go.”
For the most part, Jeter spoke about all the things that he said in his statement. This was more about clarifying the reasons that he’d already laid out on Facebook.
1. Jeter said he’s 100 percent healthy and current health problems have nothing to do with the decision to walk away at the end of this year. He feels physically up to the job of playing shortstop everyday. Said he worked harder this offseason than ever before. This is not a forced retirement.
2. That said, it was last year’s injury that forced Jeter to step away from the game and truly think about how much longer he wanted to play. That’s when he began thinking about goals outside of baseball (including the idea of starting a family). He knew at the end of last season that he only wanted to play one more year, but he held off on the announcement at the advice of others. Jeter said he wrote every word of his retirement statement.
3. Jeter acknowledged that watching Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte walk away also helped push him toward this decision. It helped him think about what comes next. “You take someone away that’s been a pretty much constant all these years, you start thinking about it,” Jeter said. “But I was always pretty good about getting it out of my mind once we came to spring training.”
4. Why Facebook? Jeter said he thought it might bring some new attention to his Turn 2 Foundation (the Facebook page is basically a Turn 2 page). He also liked the idea of having his own words out there, unedited and not put through the filter of the media. He wanted to announce it before the season because he thought questions would be unavoidable otherwise, both from the media and from fans.
As for Jeter’s legacy, he didn’t seem to like talking about things that come next. He still has a season to play, and while he understood it was necessary to address the retirement decision, he constantly tried to steer the conversation toward 2014. So what would he like his legacy to be?
“You try to play hard, you try to have respect for your team, your teammates, your opponents, fans, reporters; everyone that you come in contact with in your job,” Jeter said. “You want to be remembered as someone that played hard. But for me, I’ve always said it time and time again, the most sacred thing, the thing that means the most to me is to be remembered as a Yankee. That’s what I’ve always wanted to be is to be a Yankee. And I have to thank the Steinbrenner family that’s here today, and our late owner, The Boss, because they gave me the opportunity to pretty much live my dream my entire life, and the great thing about being a Yankee is you’re always a Yankee, so in that sense it never ends. So being a Yankee is good enough for me.”