The gratitude, surprise, sentiments, tributes, and all-out love fest for the Captain began almost immediately after his announcement via his Facebook page yesterday afternoon. The social media world exploded (serious, my Twitter feed was updating every minute with a new post and the top 7 trends were related to the announcement), the news outlets exploded (everything from ESPN to local non-NY sports shows to small town print newspapers explored every angle and talked to anyone who would speak), and then the skies over Florida exploded. That last one’s not figurative either; the Tampa area (like much of the East Coast yesterday) had severe storms last night. A friend mused that clearly the heavens were weeping over Jeter’s announcement.
And while it’s been a mix of entertainment, sadness, nostalgia, and acceptance, it’s nice to shelve this whole story for a week and get back to the business of baseball. Like so many before him, Derek Jeter will be holding a press conference on Wednesday, February 19 at Steinbrenner Field to discuss his decision and get everything out in the open so he can return to what he loves to do for the last time — playing baseball. And pace yourself, people, we have all of Spring Training and 162 regular games and hopefully a full off-season to say our goodbyes.
A couple of dates to keep in mind on the 2014 Jeter Farewell Tour:
- Last Spring Training game: March 29 vs. Miami at Steinbrenner Field, Tampa
- First Game: April 1 vs. Houston at Minute Maid Park, Houston
- Opening Day: April 7 vs. Baltimore at Yankee Stadium, Bronx
- All Star Game: July 15 at Target Field, Minneapolis (Not a guarantee, but with Chipper Jones honored in 2012 and Mariano Rivera in 2013, it’s becoming tradition the ASG to always invite the to their final game)
- Last Home Game: September 25 vs. Baltimore at Yankee Stadium, Bronx
- Last Game: September 28 vs. Boston at Fenway Park, Boston
- Playoff games: October, TBD
- World Series Win #28 (#6 for Jeter): October, TBD
- July 26, 2020 — Hall of Fame Induction Day at Cooperstown
So in other news, as there are 39 other players on the roster and 26 non-roster invitees descending progressively on Steinbrenner Field officially beginning tomorrow, all those pitchers and catchers (which is about half of the roster and non-roster) check into camp. Now, some of these guys have already started their own workouts. For example, fresh off his own major news story and press conference, Masahiro Tanaka, who showed up at the field yesterday amid the Jeter breaking news, worked out with pitching coach Larry Rothschild and catcher Francisco Cervelli yesterday and today, getting himself used to pitching in America and being with the guys.
And like it was announced earlier in the off-season, a split squad will travel down to Panama this March to play two exhibition games against the Marlins, now dubbed the “Legends Series”. Half the team will be back in Florida at Baltimore’s Spring Training facility in Sarasota on Saturday, March 15 and then host the Braves at Steinbrenner on Sunday, March 16. The other half will be fighting the Marlins those two days in Panama City, honoring special hometown host Mariano Rivera. A special fundraising gala for his foundation and a local children’s hospital will also be held prior to the games on Friday, March 14. As to who will be getting a stamp in their passport and who will be staying behind, that is yet to be determined.
At any rate, this is shaping up to be a very entertaining spring to say the least. As I’m collecting my game tickets (which have legends featured on them — Mantle, Berra, Gehrig, Jackson, etc.), I’m mentally preparing myself for this spring. And beyond all the obvious news-type stories, the one thing keeps echoing through my brain — “there’s no snow in Florida, no snow and 70-something degree, and no snow”. And that combined with 17 games of great baseball is continuing to drive me forward in anticipation of yet-to-come in this 2014 season. I think great things are in store, and I can’t tell you exactly why. But I just know it, and that makes me smile.