**Author's Note: I wrote this while waiting for my flight home on Saturday morning. Even after watching Derek Jeter's last at bat, I am still pretty raw with emotion.**
I still can't believe it.
I'm sitting in the airport waiting to board my flight home, two days after Jeter topped off his career at yankee stadium in only the way jeter could. The entire game was one of anticipation- what spectacular play was he going to make? How was Girardi going to top the send off he have Mo? How was this game going to end? And how was Jeter going to be pulled?
I spent most of the game on the verge of tears. I was simultaneously happy and sad. Happy that I got to watch the greatest player of my generation play at home one final time and so very sad that it was going to end. The game flew by in what seemed like a blink of an eye. Before I knew it, the Yanks were up 5-3 and it looked like of Girardi was going to pull Jeter, it was going to be in the 9th. Then - Dave Robertson happened.
As a yankee fan it has been an adjustment to not having the greatest closer in baseball as your goodnight man. Robertson is good, don't get me wrong, but he is no Rivera. I know it's an unfair comparison, but unfortunately for him, it's one he is going to have to get used to if he wants to stay in pinstripes. Robertson allowed two homers and suddenly the game was tied and there was the real possibility that the send off we were all waiting for was going to be soured by a devastating loss. Sending into the 9th, fans all around we're saying "jete's gonna get the walk off." Jeter was due up third but with the way the season had been going, there was no way in hell he was going to get that fairy tale ending- or would he?
Pirela struck first, scoring a single and Girardi switched him out for a pinch runner in Antoan Richardson. After a bunt by Gardner to get into scoring position - it was time.
The stadium was roaring Jeter chants all night - everything from thank you captain, thank you Jeter and thank you Derek to your simple Der-ek Je-ter. But as he came to bat all forty thousand plus were on their feet and from the top of our lungs were screaming his name. We wished so much for him to get the big hit, the big win and have a moment on top. First pitch- and in true Jeter style- he smacked it between first and second and grabbed himself an RBI walk off single.
It was right there that the dams burst and tears flooded my eyes. I couldn't help myself. This player had been the most consistent thing in my life for 15+ years. He inspired me; he enriched my life and love of baseball. He was the perfect role model and I couldn't believe it was all over. I screamed at the top of my lungs and cheered until my voice disappeared. Then I looked at the screen to my right and saw them. The core four - Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Petite and Bernie Williams. Flanked by Joe Torre and Gerald Williams and even though I didn't think it was possible, I cried even harder. It was perfect. Jeter didn't see them right away, which made it all the better.
He kept his composure through the post game interview and thanked the fans and the fans responded with the ultimate response- throwing their caps onto the field in the ultimate cap tip. As Jeter did one final lap and stopped at his position at short stop I was flooded with all the memories- the flip, the dive, Mr. November, Mr. 3,000.... It was a beautiful moment and one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
People always asked me what I would do if Jeter were traded or when he retired. Would I still be a yankee fan. The answer is yes - I am still a yankee fan. I will always be a yankee fan. But a bit of my heart died on that field as I watched the end of an era. I am so, so fortunate to be a Jeter fan. He is the best baseball can ask for and has been more frequently more than it deserved.
I guess really there is only one thing left to say - thank you captain. Thank you.