It’s not often you’ll see Derek Jeter donning a jersey that was not adorned in Yankee Pinstripes, but he gladly made an exception on Wednesday afternoon.
The Bronx’s famous No. 2 was given his National Baseball Hall of Fame jersey and cap at the St. Regis Hotel and officially introduced alongside Larry Walker as the newest inductees into Cooperstown.
“This is something that isn’t a part of the dream. when you’re playing,” Jeter admitted. “You’re trying to compete year in and year out and trying to win. But when your career is over and done with, it’s up to the writers. So I once again want to thank them. “
In his first year on the ballot, Jeter came just one vote shy of becoming the second-ever unanimous selection amongst Hall-of-Fame voters alongside former teammate Mariano Rivera.
His 99.7-percent acceptance rate (396 of 397 votes) is the highest amongst position players in Hall-of-Fame history.
The one vote doesn’t mean much to him, though.
“I don’t care where they put me. They can put me in the restroom for all I care,” he joked.
“That’s where our minds are a little different,” he continued. “I focused on the [writers] that [voted for me]. It takes a lot of people to all agree to get you to this point. I’m not thinking about that I’m just happy to be sitting on this stage right now. That’s something that just hasn’t crossed my mind.”
For a player who did everything he could to refuse talk about being selected into the Hall of Fame — whether it was as a player or the five ensuing years following his retirement — Jeter was finally hit with the realization that it’s his time to head to Cooperstown.
“It’s hard to put into words… I didn’t want to jinx any opportunities that I might have had. I didn’t want to take anything for granted,” Jeter said of his silence on the subject over the years. “I never sat down and necessarily viewed myself that way. It was always ‘what’s next? what’s next? what’s next?’ and ‘how can we win some more?'”
“To have the opportunity now to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, the best way to answer this is that I don’t know what to say.”
Such an honor was difficult to categorize for the five-time World Series winner, who won just about every accolade possible during his 20-year career.
“I don’t try to compare them. This is special all on its own. It doesn’t get any better than this,” Jeter said. “There’s no other awards, no other place you can go. This is it. This is as good as it gets.”
But as the cherry is prepared to be placed atop a legendary career, Jeter admitted that his proudest moments — Hall-of-Fame election included — was far simpler.
“I’m most proud that I was a Yankee. That’s the only thing I ever wanted to do since as long as I can remember was to play shortstop for the New York Yankees. I had an opportunity to do that and to do that for a long time.”
For Walker, it was a much slimmer margin of entry as the former Colorado Rockies star slid into the Hall by just six votes in his 10th and final year of eligibility.
“Once that phone call happened, the tears of joy came out,” he admitted. “That night when I went to bed I never realized how mentally tired I was. I couldn’t sleep because everything was just spinning around with the happiness involved with it.”
Both players will officially be enshrined at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on Jul. 26.