Pride of Yanks: Jeter still going strong at 38
Captain remains driven by winning, not achieving personal milestones
NEW YORK -- With one more hit, Yankees captain and shortstop Derek Jeter will reach the 200 mark this season, giving him 288 since he soared past 3,000 just prior to the 2011 All-Star break.He leads the Major Leagues in hits and shows no sign of slowing down at the age of 38. Only Paul Molitor did Jeter one better, smacking out a career-high 225 hits in 1996 at 39 years old. Jeter is 10th now on the all-time list, two spots behind Molitor, who is eighth with 3,319 and should easily be reachable next year. "I'm not there yet," Jeter told MLB.com on Tuesday night in the clubhouse at Yankee Stadium. I don't speculate." Jeter has been playing with a painful bone bruise in his left ankle and has been restricted to designated hitter duties for the last four games. He has played and declines to talk about it. After the Yankees and Blue Jays were rained out on Tuesday, Jeter, though, reflected on a wide-range of topics that have affected his life and 18-year career, all with his beloved Yankees. He was named captain by late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner on June 3, 2003. MLB.com: Having met your parents, they seem like such nice people. What kind of influence do you think they've had on you as a person and a player? Jeter: What kind of influence did my parents have on my life? Well, they had the most influence. These are the people who are closest to me. My parents are very positive people. They've been supportive. They're always there. MLB.com: Do your leadership abilities come from them? Jeter: Probably that, probably most things. MLB.com: Do you think your leadership abilities grew over time or were they innate? Jeter: I think you are who you are. I think I've always been the way I am now. I think maybe I've become a little bit more vocal as I've gotten older. Through time you learn from your experiences. I think I've learned to deal with people a little bit better over time. That in particular has developed a little bit. MLB.com: Do you think that's what the Yankees saw in you when they made you the captain? Jeter: I don't know. Because when The Boss told me I was the captain, he told me not to do anything differently than I'd done in the past. As I said, I think you are who you are. I've been here for a long time and if I was any different than what I am, people would have figured it out a long time ago. Maybe there were certain personality traits that he saw in me. Unfortunately, you can't ask The Boss because he's not around anymore. But I would assume so. I think that was the Boss's decision. I don't know how much input anybody else in the organization had. MLB.com: What's your sense of the job of a captain? There are so few of them in baseball. Jeter: What's the job? I think you represent yourself and the organization. You have a responsibility to the organization and the fans to do your job and to be accountable. Those are the things I learned at a young age in this organization. MLB.com: Does the captain set a tone in the clubhouse as much as the manager does? Jeter: Maybe. You have to ask the other players, but I think that people tend to watch some of the guys who have been here a long time. I think you lead by example, that's the biggest thing you can do. MLB.com: But you don't only lead by example. If there's something that needs to be said... Jeter: I'll say it. I'll do it in a certain way. I won't do it through the media. I don't do it in front of people. But there's a certain way to speak to people, to communicate, to get your point across. MLB.com: There's obviously a Yankee way of doing things that you're onboard with that has transcended your two managers -- Joe Torre and Joe Girardi. There's a Jeter way of doing things that is one and the same. Jeter: I think so. That's why The Boss and I always had such a good relationship. I always felt the same way he did when it came to playing and doing your job, and being accountable and leading by example. MLB.com: You were a Yankee fan growing up? Jeter: It goes way back. I was born in New Jersey. Even after we moved to Michigan, I used to spend all my summers back in Jersey. The Yankee games were on television and I watched most of them. My grandmother watched a lot of them, so I just watched with her. MLB.com: So that's where your Yankee loyalty comes from? Jeter: Pretty much. It started with my grandmother. Pretty much since the time I started watching baseball, I've been a Yankee fan. MLB.com: So what's happened in your career has to be pretty satisfying since it happened for the Yankees. Jeter: Yeah, I've been fortunate. The Draft is a crapshoot, so I've been very fortunate to be drafted by the Yankees, and to have spent my whole career here. So far. MLB.com: So far? Is there any doubt that you're going to spend you whole career here? Jeter: I'd like to. But there are no guarantees in anything. MLB.com: What do you consider to be your most significant milestone? Jeter: Most significant? I just want to win. That's it. That's what you play for. I want to win as much as possible. MLB.com: Do you think you guys have won as much as possible as tough as it is to do in the multi-tier playoff era? Jeter: You never think you've won as much as possible. You always go into each and every season like you're going to win. You want to win. We have a chance to win this year. That's the only thing that matters now. MLB.com: You joke about it with Yogi Berra about how much easier it was for him to amass 10 World Series rings before the advent of the playoffs. Jeter: Yeah, he really has only five. We're tied. I cut it in half. I've told him that. MLB.com: What did he say? Jeter: He just laughs. He didn't have that much to say. He has the rings. MLB.com: It gets tougher and tougher, doesn't it? Jeter: No question. Now, this year there's another Wild Card. Anytime you have expanded playoffs in different rounds it's going to be a little harder. MLB.com: So no particular favorite personal milestone? The 3,000 hits? Jeter: I think that just signifies consistency and longevity. That's nice, but that's not where I want it to stop. I don't know if I can answer that until my career is over. MLB.com: Every season is different. How would you access this one up to this point? Jeter: How would I access it to this point? It's not over. That's the best way to do it. I don't judge a year until it's finished and we haven't finished yet. Hopefully we're a long way away from that happening. MLB.com: Thus far, this team has played through a lot of injuries and adversity. Jeter: I'm proud of the team so far, but we've still got a long way to go. Up until this point, though, we've battled and I'm proud of that. I think we all are. MLB.com: Of the five championship teams you've played on, does anyone stand out for you? Jeter: They all do. They're all different. I don't think I can really compare them. Every year is different. A different group. Different circumstances. But they're all special. MLB.com: How is your ankle feeling? Even Girardi says the only thing you ever tell him is that you're feeling great. Jeter: I do feel great. You either play or you don't. MLB.com: Is this a tough guy part of your persona? Jeter: I don't think about it, really. When I was younger I was always taught not to make excuses. In my mind, if you're playing why talk about what's wrong with you? I think that's just an excuse that you have. So you either play or you don't. I've just always felt that way. MLB.com: So how long do you think you want to play in your career? Jeter: As long as I'm having fun. I'm having fun now. That's the way I feel about it.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.