NEW YORK -- On Derek Jeter Day in the Bronx, the Yankees honored their captain by bringing in the likes of Michael Jordan, Cal Ripken Jr. and the next commissioner, Rob Manfred, along with Jeter's championship teammates and his family.
Still, at the end of the nearly one-hour pregame festivities, when Jeter picked up the mic, wearing the Yankees hat and jersey adorned by a special patch to commemorate his career, the people Jeter most wanted to address were the fans who have supported him over the past two decades.
After Jeter briefly thanked George Steinbrenner, his family, friends and teammates, the 40-year-old captain turned his attention to the masses who chanted his name throughout.
"Lastly and most importantly, I want to thank you, the fans," said Jeter, who later admitted his hand was shaking. "Anyone who is here today, anyone who is at home watching, anyone who has ever been over the course, over the last 20 seasons, thank you very much. You guys have watched me grow up over the last 20 years. I've watched you, too. Some of you guys are getting older, too. I want to thank you for helping me feel like a kid the last 20 years.
"In my opinion, I've had the greatest job in the world. I've had a chance to be the shortstop for the New York Yankees -- and there is only one of those. I always felt my job was to try and provide joy and entertainment for you guys, but it can't compare to what you brought me. For that, thank you very much. I've loved what I've done. I love what I do. More importantly, I've loved doing it for you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much."
Walking off the field, Jeter said he had a game to play. Soon after, he started preparing to start at short and bat second.
The Yankees would go on to lose 2-0 to the Kansas City Royals, further harming their slim playoff hopes. Jeter went 1-for-3 with a walk.
Throughout the game, there were between-inning video tributes on the scoreboard from actors, players and athletes from other sports. The group ranged from David Letterman toKobe Bryant toNew York Jets receiver Eric Decker.
Jeter said he appreciated all the festivities from the Yankees, the fans and everyone involved.
"This is a day I'll remember forever," Jeter said.
Prior to the first pitch, when Jeter led the charge onto the field for the first inning, as he customarily does, his teammates stayed in the dugout.
Alone on the field, the fans again saluted him as he appeared to motion to his teammates to join him.Yankees third basemanChase Headleycame up with the idea. Jeter said he appreciated it,but is "odd situation," juggling the celebrations and trying to win a game.
On Sunday, the Yankees began wearing commemorative patches on their hats and uniforms, which they will don the rest of the season. The emblem with a dark blue No. 2 in the middle also was painted just outside of each baseline.
During the ceremony, the Yankees gave Jeter a G5 massage machine, a matted framed piece with the patches from each of Jeter's 14 All-Star Games, a 10-day trip to Tuscany, a $222,222.22 donation to Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation and a specially made crystal of the Jeter's emblem that included a special inscription. The Yankees also unveiled a 30-foot banner of Jeter in the Stadium's "Great Hall," while the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, declared Sunday Derek Jeter Day.
Jordan, for one, thought all the salutes were deserved.
"I don't think anybody can say one thing bad about Derek," Jordan said. "He's a complete champion. He's an idol for me in terms of how he's well-respected in the game, from not just his teammates, but his opponents. He carries himself like every professional baseball player, or professional athlete should."
The ceremony Sunday began an hour before the scheduled first pitch, and was emceed by the voices of the Yankees, Michael Kay and John Sterling. It began with Jeter's family, Manfred and his former teammates being introduced.
In order, they were: Jeter's grandmother Dorothy Connors, his parents Dr. Charles and Dot, his sister Sharlee and her son Jalen, Manfred, Harold Reynolds, Reggie Jackson, trainer Gene Monohan, Hideki Matsui, Joe Torre, David Cone, Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Tim Raines, his good friend and former teammate Gerald Williams.
Next, the "Jeter's Leaders" from his Turn 2 Foundation all walked in from center field. During Jeter's tour around the major leagues, he raised nearly $330,000 for his charity.
Besides all the on-field guests, the Yankees also had three NASA astronauts (Steve Swanson, Reid Wiseman and Alex Gerst), 200 miles above, tip their caps to Jeter from space, just as in the Nike commercial.
Last September, the Yankees had a similar day for Rivera. While all his ex-teammates and Torre stressed that on Sunday Jeter had to balance playing in the game with the ceremony, Rivera said the most difficult day will be his final one, which will occur on Sept. 28th in Boston, if the Yankees fail to make the playoffs.
"The last day will be the toughest," Rivera said. "At that time, he will find out. At the same time, I can tell him, retirement is awesome."
The Yankees also tried to leave fans and Jeter's current teammates with a memento from the day. The Yankees handed out what they described as limited edition commemorative coins. When the current players arrived in the clubhouse, they found a bottle of Cabaret Sauvignon with Jeter's signature and commemorative emblem sitting on the blue cushioned chairs in front of their lockers.