We are less than two weeks to go in Derek Jeter’s baseball career. He is not only the last of the “Core Four,” he is also my age. I have spent half my life watching his excellence and grace on the field. Watching him win titles both individual and team and even watching him struggle on rare occasion. I do not look to public figures as role models as I feel there are people in our lives that are closer to our proximity that are more deserving of such adulation but if one was going to look at how a young adult and now a middle aged adult handles pressure then one could do a lot worse than Derek Jeter.
People think he just burst onto the scene and was great right away. Well he did win rookie of the year but he struggled in the minor leagues. He worked hard before games and in his own free time. Over night sensations are not made over night. This is something I know all too well. People will watch America’s Got Talent or Last Comic Standing and think the polished act they are watching was just a few months in the making. They do not realize all the time spent crafting jokes, researching jokes, and trying jokes in very lonely places that not many people see. They do not see the determination it takes to get to the stage where your craft is ready to be admired in much the same way we do not see Derek Jeter in the weight room or taking groundballs but we do see the ready for prime time results of his hard work.
As a ballplayer gets older there is a bigger body of work for opponents to study from and to make adjustments. The body also slows down. Derek was constantly making adjustments whether on defense or offense so that he could remain at his best. In comedy sensibilities of audiences change. Humor changes and if you are working a lot audiences see you enough and they don’t want to hear the exact same act repeatedly. That is why good comics need to constantly adjust. They need to stay current. They need to reinvent themselves. They need to keep changing. Much like baseball if you remain stagnant soon enough the times pass you by and you are no longer playing the venues you once played. Derek evolved to stay on top of his game. Comedians evolve to keep getting the best gigs and having the most rabid fans.
Derek had the determination to be the best that he could be and his main focus was on winning and the team. Now traditionally stand up is not a team sport but with the radio show it is a team. Derek would be what they call a table setter which is what it is to get yourself in position to help score runs by getting on base. Setting up his teammates to succeed by driving him in while they would put up gaudy statistics. At the end of the day they all shared the same goal which was for the team to succeed. With the radio show it is the same. I really do not care who gets the biggest laugh or who presents the best bit. Often I will set up Joe or Pip to get a big laugh. Sometimes I will get the big laugh. In the end though we all have the same goal which is to have a very entertaining and successful radio show.
One of the best things about Jeter is the respect his peers have for him. They all talk about how nice he is and how he is respectful of the game. They talk about how he treated minor leaguers and the stars great and took time to chat with them. That is another instance where I really strive to be like him. In comedy it is very easy to get bitter and jealous which can lead to saying the wrong thing or having a bad attitude. I try to be nice to everybody whether they are a big national star or an open micer just getting their start. At the end of the day if people can say you treated them well and fairly that is the best compliment one can get.
So to Derek Jeter I say happy retirement. You were a champion on the field and off the field and an amazing role model. Even to people the same age as you.