It was a day fans never wanted to see, but also couldn’t miss when it finally came.
A generation that grew up rooting for the Yankees with Derek Jeter as the star and longest-tenured captain will now see their team enter a new era without the famed shortstop.
“I’ve been coming to games since I was a little kid, and I can only remember Derek Jeter at shortstop,” said John Bertollo, a 31-year-old season ticket holder from Fairfield, New Jersey.
Fans remembered Jeter’s 20-year career for the five championships he brought to New York, revitalizing a team in the ’90s that had last won a ring in 1978, and for a work ethic displayed on and off the diamond.
“He’s a team player, he’s the captain,” said Junior Reyes, a 34-year-old fan from Brooklyn. “He’s a true gentleman of baseball.”
Fans still have time to say their goodbyes, however, as the Yankees have a handful of home games left in the regular season, as well as a long-shot chance at making the playoffs.
Michael Shindler and Varun Deedwaniya, 23-year-old friends from Manhattan, came to Yankee Stadium for Derek Jeter Day to honor a player who had been on their favorite team for nearly as long as they have been alive.
“I was born in ’91, so my first baseball experience was with the ’90s championship games with Jeter, Bernie, Jorge and those guys,” Deedwaniya said, referring to former Bombers mainstays Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada.
Jeter’s nice-guy cred and ability to avoid the pitfalls of fame in New York City stood in stark contrast to many of his contemporaries.
That off-the-field reputation earned him the respect of casual and hard-core baseball fans alike and made him a role model.
“There’s so many athletes who are good on the field but are always getting into trouble,” said Ted Marshall, 45, from New Jersey. “To have that combination is almost unheard of nowadays.”
Ashley Fox, a 25-year-old from Queens, has three tattoos dedicated to the Yankees star.
“When I was younger, I was like, ‘That’s my soul mate.’ And still to this day I feel the same exact way,” Fox said.
Gary McFadden, 25, of Bed-Stuy, noted the luminaries who participated in the pregame ceremony.
“You look out onto the field and see how many people came for the ceremony, especially seeing Michael Jordan, who doesn’t go anywhere for anyone, come out — that just shows you the great amount of respect people have for Derek Jeter.”