Jersey’s Derek Jeter
By Rich Bauer
When you think of superstars and New Jersey the first name that pops in your head is Bruce. I do not even have to print his last name do I?
Well, there is another superstar who is as well-known as Bruce. His ties to Jersey are not as long but they are deep and meaningful to who he is as a person and why he was so successful as the shortstop of the New York Yankees for 20 years.
Now batting # 2 DEERREKK JEETTAAR.
Derek Sanderson Jeter was born in 1974 at Chilton Hospital in Pequannock, New Jersey. The same hospital as my new love of my life, my granddaughter, Samantha (10 months old). The Jeters lived in the Garden State until Derek was 4 years old, at which time they moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan returning to Jersey every summer in his middle school years. Specifically to the West Milford and Greenwood Lake area in the northwest Passaic County, less than 60 miles from Yankee Stadium.
During those summers he would move in with his grandparents on his mother’s side, known as the Connors Clan. Grandfather Sonny did his talking with a hammer as a maintenance worker at Queen of Peace Church in North Arlington. There he met a wealthy parishioner who enlisted his help to rebuild a burned out castle on Greenwood Lake during the summer months. It was here that young Derek learned the values of an honest day’s work for pay, but not really since he was his grandfather’s unpaid assistant. Together they never missed a day of work; together they painted inside and outside of the house, built rock walls and landscaped acres of property.
Derek was just not introduced to hard work. In the evenings he would sit with Grandma Dot and listen to the Yankee games on the radio. Before long that’s all he wanted to talk about: baseball and the Yanks. He caught the bug and never gave it up. He always had his glove with him during the day for a quick catch with whoever was around and when he wasn’t working he was organizing a wiffle ball game in the field or on the beach.
Number 2’s love of a game that would make him wealthy and famous later in life started here in New Jersey but as important, if not more important, what also started here were his traits of being humble, getting along with others, treating others the way you would want to be treated and working hard at whatever you do. Combine this with a God-given ability to be a baseball player with 14 All-Star appearances, 5 World Series Championships, 13 years as a team captain and no wonder he was called the Prince of the New York City.
Jeter’s story is a “Jersey Story”, shared by so many kids from New Jersey who spend time with their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles during the summer down at the shore or up in the mountains. Kids of all ages look forward to that last day of school and, boom, off they go for either the entire summer, weeks at a time or just weekends. These are special times for so many reasons. Families come together, bonds are made, cemented and passed along between the young and the old. Stories are told, actions mirrored, and respect is learned and earned.
This is a way of life for thousands of folks in New Jersey for decades and I believe it is part of what makes Jersey great. I know that Derek Jeter picked up this unique slice of life here and rode it all the way to having his number 2 retired on Sunday in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium and his eventual enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame. To Derek those days in his life were very special as evidenced by the fact that he currently maintains a residence in Greenwood Lake and Marlboro Township.
Derek Jeter learned his lessons well and early in Jersey.He knew he was Born to Run when it came to playing baseball.
photo: newyork.yankees.mlb.com (Jeter); warwickinfo.net (Greenwood Lake)