The wrong number

Feb. 16, 2014 @ 11:12 AM

This past week was rough for my inner child. The most obvious reason was the sudden, substantial snowfall that blanketed the state. As the snow fell I couldn’t think of what friends I could call to go sledding with me or pick out the perfect spot in the front yard to construct a snowman. Instead I had to worry about how I was going to get to work. I had to worry about road conditions, game cancellations and early deadlines. Snow no longer represents a reprieve from everyday worries, now it just makes them worse.

However, the snow was the least of my worries.

On Wednesday, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter announced that he will retire after the 2014 season. For anyone that grew up alongside me or knows much of anything about my life, Derek Jeter is my favorite athlete of all time.

I spent my entire childhood and young adult life idolizing Jeter. Who am I kidding, I still do.

My second year playing baseball was Jeter’s rookie season with the Yankees. I was already a young Yankees fan and was elated when I found out my PeeWee team was named after the team in pinstripes.

When the day came to choose our numbers I wanted my favorite player’s, Tino Martinez. However, Tino wore No. 24 and when you’re printing little jerseys for 7-year-olds you print numerically until you have enough, and our team didn’t have 24 players. Slightly disappointed, I settled for No. 2.

When I got home from that practice I showed my dad my jersey and asked him who wore No. 2. He told me Derek Jeter, the team’s new shortstop, wore that number. Ironically, that was the first year that I played shortstop. My first year of baseball isn’t something I openly talk about. I was one of those kids in left field picking at the grass. But in my second year I finally got the hang of the game and turned into one of the best young baseball players at the Shelby City Park.

Anyways, now that I was playing shortstop for the Dairy Queen Yankees and wearing No. 2, I took a vested interest in Jeter. When the Yankees were on television I would stop whatever I was doing to watch Jeter at the plate. Laying on the floor with my head propped in my hands I would anxiously watch every pitch. If Jeter got a hit I would cheer and if he struck out I would pretend it never happened and hope he made up for it in his next at-bat.  

From then on, I always wore No. 2 no matter the sport. I read books about

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Jeter. I dressed up as Jeter for Halloween. There was no person in the world that I wanted to be more like.

Eventually I realized that I wasn’t meant to be the next shortstop for the New York Yankees, but I still hold Jeter in incredibly high regard. The way he conducts himself on and off the field, his respect for history, not to mention his success in the dating world is second to none. To see him retiring from baseball, in a way, represents the end of my childhood love for sports. I’m sure this is how so many Braves fans my age felt when Chipper Jones stepped away.

Now so many players that I grew up watching and reading about in Sports Illustrated for Kids are being inducted into the Hall of Fame and starting careers away from the diamond. It all makes me realize how quickly time has passed.

Now I have 162 more games to enjoy watching my childhood idol play baseball. It certainly won’t be the same without seeing Jeter and the No. 2 in the lineup after this season, but I plan on cherishing the final moments I get to see of this Yankee great.

It’s amazing how something so disappointing to a 7-year-old, something like not getting the jersey number you want, can have such a profound effect on a child’s life. It was heartbreaking then, but the course that jersey put me on is something I’ll always remember and never regret.