Some New York fans, believe it or not, are less about the bravado of victory and more about the sentiment that goes into the game. They grew up watching the game with their grandparents, their middle name came from Babe Ruth, or the only time they could get their brother to talk was when Derek Jeter was in the batter's box.
For many fans — Yankees or not — the love affair with baseball begins when the game gives them a connection to something deeper, a feeling that they are tapping into a world beyond themselves.
But when it comes to how the game got a hold of Jeter, by far the face of the franchise and one of the most beloved players in Yankees history, all that mystique and joy stuff — well, that was second to straight-up baseball.
Jeter said Wednesday that he never dreamed of playing baseball as a kid because of that deeper feeling some fans get as a home run arcs out of the stadium, or the rush some people feel when players dive for a great catch. That other "something" wasn't on the mind of a guy who just loved a game where you bat, field, run and throw.
"To be honest, I just liked baseball," Jeter said when asked about the intangible joy that pulls so many fans to the sport. "I was born in New Jersey. My grandmother was a big Yankee fan, but I grew up in Michigan, so I was sort of like, 'Oh, I'm from New Jersey; oh, I'm a Yankee fan. They didn't televise games back then like they do now. They had just the Saturday game of the week that came on. During the summers when I was at my grandparents house, I'd get to see them every day, so that's why I was a Yankee fan."
Any wonder associated with the game came from the people he emulated rather than getting pulled into baseball's mystique by following his chosen team — even if his team was the Yankees, the kings of baseball lore. Jeter idolized those he knew who played baseball as he grew up, and as his talent matched his ambition, his career took off.
Since then, Jeter has been at the center of some of the most memorable moments in Yankees history, leading his team to five World Series titles and countless unforgettable moments. He's talked often of appreciating Yankees history and what it means to be part of a legendary storyline, even if that hard-to-describe something wasn't his original draw to the game.
So, while fans may feel like they're in Heaven watching No. 2 or another favorite MLB player round the bases, chances are that the stars are a bit less sentimental or philosophical than the folks in the stands. As Jeter seemed to say, they may have just gotten into it all because they liked playing the game.
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