If you’re a major league baseball fan, much of the news the last few weeks has been about the suspension of a number of baseball players for suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs. Most of the attention has been focused on Alex Rodriguez, the only one of the 13 players suspended to appeal his punishment and arguably one of the most talented people to play baseball in a long time. If you ask a Yankees fan what they think of Alex Rodriguez these days (he of the poor playoff performances during the last few years and the enormous contract that pays him probably far more than he’s worth), you won’t find much love for him.
Instead, turn your attention to a man who exemplifies what it means to be a New York Yankee: Derek Jeter.
Jeter, who has spent his entire career as a New York Yankee, is not only a stellar ballplayer but someone who appreciates his success and always tries to pay it forward. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1996. He is a 5-times World Series champion and was the World Series MVP in 2000. He’s won 5 Gold Glove Awards and was the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Award in 2009. He’s been a 13-time All-Star selection. He’s one of only 28 players in the history of major league baseball to reach 3,000 hits and he reached that milestone with a home run on July 9, 2011. And he’s only one of 11 men who have ever been the Captain of the New York Yankee (a position held by, among others, Lou Gehrig and Thurman Munson).
During his rookie year in 1996, Derek Jeter established the Turn 2 Foundation to promote healthy lifestyles among young people by providing programs and activities and outings that help youth turn away from alcohol and drugs. Since it began, the foundation has awarded more than $18 million in grants. The foundation has programs in New York, West Michigan (where Jeter was raised) and Tampa (where Jeter spends the off-season).
In New York, there are a number of after-school programs run by the foundation. In addition, the foundation endows several scholarships including the Derek Jeter/Jackie Robinson Scholarship and the United Negro College Fund/Sharlee Jeter Scholarship. There are also annual baseball clinics held in each of the 3 locations each year, which bring together local children to learn the fundamentals of baseball, as well as life skills.
Every January, the annual Derek Jeter Celebrity Golf Classic is held in Tampa. The event this year raised $1 million for the Turn 2 Foundation through donations, celebrity auctions and sponsorships from companies like the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and Mercedes Benz.
There is also an annual dinner for the foundation held each June in New York City that features performances by entertainers, sports memorabilia auctions and donations to raise additional monies for the foundation.
So many of our children and teens view athletes as role models, a title not always deserved. Derek Jeter is someone we should encourage our children to admire, a person who deserves to wear the Yankee pinstripes and a man who has made it his mission to lead by example.