In honor of today’s big achievement by Derek Jeter to become the first Yankee to reach 3,000 hits, I thought I’d repost this piece from 2009.
There is a line in one of my favorite movies, The Family Man, where Don Cheadle (playing a modern-day It’s a Wonderful Life angel) tells Nicholas Cage that he’s getting a glimpse of what his life could have been like had he chosen a different path. Cage then jumps to an alternate life where he married his college girlfriend (Tea Leoni), moved to New Jersey (gasp!), had 2 kids, drove a minivan and worked at his father-in-law’s tire store – instead of being a Ferrari-driving high-powered single Manhattan businessman.
If I could choose a glimpse – a peek into living as someone else – I would be Derek Jeter. I think about it sometimes (not long) and maybe you have too (or perhaps you imagine that your husband is Derek Jeter!). It’s fairly easy for me because we’re the same age – he’s just 27 days younger than I am. Unfortunately, after our age, birth in the Garden State and love for all things Yankee, I’m afraid the comparison fades pretty quickly. (and athletic prowess of course!) He makes $20 million per year, I make slightly less than that…I could go on. Jeter mania has peaked this week as he seeks to break Lou Gehrig’s 70-year-old record for the most hits ever as a Yankee. Everywhere you turn, there’s Derek Jeter. Yankee fans are clamoring to pick the right game to be at the stadium and witness history.
Amidst all this excitement and personal reflection, I took my oldest to his first Yankee game on Tuesday night. True, he’d joined my wife and I at a game in the Baby Bjorn at 6 months, but that hardly counts. And as he pointed out to me, “that was at the old Yankee Stadium, so this really is my first game here.” Gotta love it. On Tuesday, the magic number of hits to tie the record was at 3, so the joint was buzzing each time Jeter came to the plate. With my luck, I feared that he would be swinging for the record hit late in the game, my son would melt down and we’d have to leave early and miss it. That didn’t materialize, as Jeter was 0-4 with 3 strikeouts. Maybe even he feels the pressure sometimes.
It was fun bringing my boy to the stadium. One of those surreal moments where the past and present collide in your mind – remembering Yankee games with my dad as a kid and carrying that tradition to my own son. First pitch wasn’t until 7:05 so we were hesitant about my taking him to the game. And his first day of kindergarten was the next day. (I’m still wondering how we talked Mommy into that one.) Amazingly, there was no traffic crossing the GWB and we parked in the Bronx with hardly any delays. We walked past the rows of classic yet grimy sports bars and t-shirt shops with the clanging of the No. 4 on the train tracks above us. “Why are there so many policemen?….Why is all this trash on the ground?…What is that smell?” Welcome to the Big Apple kid. I couldn’t believe how well he did the whole night – I’m finding the boys really treasure that special one on one time.
Our seats were in the second deck, a couple sections inside the left field foul pole. “Daddy, Do you think those are the REAL Yankee players or just pretend ones?” “Yes, they’re real – look, there’s Derek Jeter!” We watched, sitting in that crowd of just under 50,000 cheering fans as number 2 strode to the plate in his pinstripes, hundreds of flash bulbs popping, counting down history. The green grass of the stadium lit up in the night like a Bronx afternoon. I looked over at my son in the seat next to me, JETER 2 emblazoned across his back – already imitating the Yankee captain in his own little way (or maybe just me). I thought about him and my wife and the two other little boys back home, and knew I was on the right side of that outfield wall – in the stands. Without the $20M, the Manhattan penthouse, the endless commercials, Minka Kelly and everything else. In the words of Tea Leoni in Family Man…“I choose us.”