It’s not the gifts or ceremonies or sacrificial offerings that will define how I look back on the different fields that I have had the privilege to play upon. All I have ever cared about is getting that next ring. Sure, I like to grind out those regular season road wins in the dog days of summer, but when I press my grass-stained knees to my pinstriped prayer rug every night, it’s only October that is on my mind.
When you’ve been fortunate enough to play for the Yankees for your entire career, you start to care less and less about material comforts. Of course I’m a fan of balls and bats, but, as any Yankee lifer can tell you, you can’t take your iPad with you to pinstripe heaven.
And yet, by the midnight oil I sit, and uncap my autographing sharpie. For the first and last time, I inscribe not DJ2, but the numbers one through four. These are the top-four gifts I have received in this, my 20th and final season. —DJ2
1. New York Yankees
A 10-day trip to Tuscany and a $222,222.22 donation to my Turn 2 Foundation
I had already booked a 10-day trip to Tuscany for the girlfriend and me when our owner Hal Steinbrenner presented me with this generous gift. I wanted to say: “thanks Hal, but you can keep it.” And then it dawned on me. News of my trip to Tuscany had been in the New York tabloids for weeks. By committing such a blatant faux pas, the Yankees were blessing me with an opportunity to give the gift of tact. To give instead of receive—as I have done for the Yankees since birth. I closed my mouth and smiled with my eyes at the crowd. The row of twos whispered to me from the oversized cheque: “Yeah Jeets, yeah.”
2. Chicago Cubs
A number two from the Wrigley scoreboard
This one had a lot of people worked up. The chutzpah to give Derek Jeter a score tile that fell off your decrepit, ivy-colonized façade, they said, and his last season. I, however, have always felt a strange kinship with the Cubs. They’re like the Yankees in a lot of ways: While we’re playing October baseball, they’re sitting on their couches; while our fingers are laden with rings, their fingers are bony and bare. While that’s not a lot, it’s definitely something.
3. Cincinnati Reds
Barry Larkin’s and Dave Concepción’s jerseys
Barry and Dave are two of the greatest ballplayers to ever patrol the yawning hole between second and third base. I don’t think I’ll be able to wear the jerseys—what with the garish red and my olive complexion—but I appreciate the greater sentiment. It takes a lot of spunk to stick at shortstop for your entire career. My manager, Joe Girardi, would never try to push me from shortstop, even though I tell him every day that I would do it in a heartbeat, for the good of the team.
4. New York Mets
A number two made of subway tiles from the New York City metro
I’ll probably dismantle this one for the floors of the new bathroom they’re working on in the trophy wing of my house in Tampa, but you have to respect the resourcefulness of a team like the Mets. Who knows where their owner scrounged up the funds for this one? You have to think change is hard to come by on the streets of Flushing, Queens. As I always say, willpower beats talent nine times out of 10.