(Editor’s Note: Tommy Ziegen is a 2017 graduate of SUNY Old Westbury. He has twice been named to our All-Long Island team and will make it this year as well. He batted .408 with 6 HR, 40 RBI, 39 runs scored, 13 doubles, 3 triples, .692 SLG, .446 OBP and 19 stolen bases. He will be participating in our Battle of the Border All-Star Game on May 30 at Hofstra University. The following words are his own.)
I was never into comic books growing up.
I did have a bunch of posters on my wall though, and as far as I’m concerned there was a superhero on every single one of them. However, this superhero didn’t wear a mask, and he didn’t wear a cape. He wore a jersey, with pinstripes, and he wore the number 2.
That’s the best way to describe my admiration for the captain. I looked up to him like he was a superhero since I was four years old. It’s funny looking back at how a man who I’ve never even met, went from my idol in my childhood, to one of the best role models I’ve ever had in my life as a 21-year-old MLB Draft hopeful. I’ve learned so many things from him from watching him, listening to him during his interviews, and even reading his books–and trust me I’m not a fan of reading. When you see someone who has the life you dream of, you tend to cling to them and you want to learn all you can from them–and I’ve learned countless lessons from Mr. November.
When you’re young, you don’t really understand the importance of having role models. At least I didn’t, I simply saw Derek Jeter as the man who had the job, and the life that I dreamed about every single day and prayed to live every single night before I went to bed. He was my idol, the man I wanted to be exactly like on the field. I copied his stance, I tried to wear all the same accessories on the field, and obviously I wore the number 2. I learned pretty quickly though, that there was only one Derek Jeter, and I was actually hurting my play on the field because every player is different. Everyone’s swing is different. In my opinion, a swing is like a fingerprint, no matter how similar two guys swings might be, there’s always at least one thing that’s different whether it be a rhythm or timing mechanism, a stride, or something else, there are no two players with identical swings. One of the most important things I learned at this young age from Derek was that looking up to someone isn’t about trying to be an exact replica of them, it’s about taking the qualities of theirs that you admire most and trying to use them to create the best version of yourself, both as a player and a person.
A day after his number was retired I sit back and reflect on the Hollywood career of Captain Clutch I remember all his big moments. The Jeffrey Maier homerun, the Jump Throw in ’98 against Cleveland, the First Pitch Homer in the 2000 World Series, “The Flip” in Oakland, “The Dive” into the Stands against Boston, becoming the Yankees All-Time hit Leader, the homer for 3000, and lastly the walk-off Hit in his final at bat at Yankee Stadium–which I happened to be in attendance for.
Derek’s last game in New York brought out so many emotions for my family and I. We were happy to celebrate the career of the consummate professional. We were excited to see how they’d honor the captain. We were sad to see him go, simply due to the fact that none of us are sure whether or not we’ll ever see a career quite as remarkable as Derek Jeter’s. If I had to bet, I would say no. Most of all, I’ll remember the way in which the captain went about his business, with the utmost professionalism, class and respect. He made everyone around him better. Hits aside, jump throws aside; his character is what has impacted me most.
No matter where baseball takes me next, I will forever try to emulate the grace and professionalism Derek Jeter displayed for his illustrious 20 year career just 45 minutes from my house, and if I have the choice, I will wear number 2 on my back just as I have for the last 17 years.