Jeter set a great example

Published 10:09 pm Friday, May 19, 2017

By Thurman Hayes

As a New York Yankees fan, I’m used to people hating my team.

When it comes to the Yankees, you either love them or hate them. That happens when you win more than any other team, and you play in the biggest city.

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But even Yankee-haters don’t hate Derek Jeter. Through the years, whenever I’ve talked with people who tell me they hate the Yankees, it is almost always followed by, “But I really respect Derek Jeter.”

What is it about Jeter? If you are a sports fan, you’ve heard that the Yankees retired his number in a special ceremony this past Sunday night. But even if you are not a sports fan, there are things we can all learn from this guy’s example.

Yes, he was an amazing player, for sure. But there are lots of talented players. What was it about this guy that commanded such admiration? It was his character. There are at least three aspects of Jeter’s character that we can learn from:

  • First, the importance of good parenting. Derek Jeter’s character was formed in a good home. His parents, Charles and Dorothy Jeter, instilled in their son the values he would carry with him to New York.

Throughout 20 years of playing on the biggest stage in sports, Jeter never got into trouble. In a city where the tabloids would have loved a juicy story about some misdeed by Jeter, he lived in such a way that he never provided them with one.

But it was not just the things he didn’t do. It was the things he did do, like treating all people with respect.

He addressed his coaches with “Mr.” and “Sir.” He took time to talk to kids, and the press. He treated the fans and the support workers in the clubhouse with kindness.

His parents provided discipline and structure as he grew up, and they also nourished his dreams. Even as a little boy, Jeter dreamed of playing shortstop for the Yankees.

Rather than dismiss his dream, his parents told him, “Go for it — but be prepared to work hard to make it happen.”

  • Second, we can learn from Jeter the importance of perseverance. After he was drafted, it was not smooth sailing. He struggled.

During his rookie season in the minor leagues, he spent many nights crying as he talked with his parents back in Michigan. He thought he was in over his head. He wanted to come home. Fortunately, his parents talked him out of that.

Even the next season, he struggled, making 56 errors in the field. Trust me, that’s a lot. But he stuck with it and kept improving.

  • Third, we can learn from Jeter’s perspective.

Have you noticed that some athletes tense up in pressure situations and can’t perform as well, while others rise to meet the moment? Jeter was almost always in the latter group, but why? Why was he able to perform so well in big situations?

He answers that question this way: “I wasn’t afraid to fail.”

In other words, Derek’s attitude in pressure situations was, “Sure, I may not come through. That’s baseball. But I’m not afraid of that. I’m simply going to do my best.”

Jeter was No. 2 on the diamond. But his attitude was No. 1.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr