Jeter documentary 'The Captain' premieres at Tribeca Film Festival

June 13th, 2022

NEW YORK -- The Tribeca Film Festival hosted the world premiere of ESPN Films’ "The Captain" Sunday evening -- a seven-part documentary series unveiling the air of mystery surrounding Derek Jeter, both on and off the field.

The documentary series, which was executively produced by Spike Lee and Mike Tolin, is set to debut on July 18, following the conclusion of the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on ESPN.

Jeter’s success on the field was no mystery during his time with the New York Yankees. Five World Series championships, 3,465 hits and 14 All-Star appearances detail a near-perfect route to Cooperstown. Yet, despite playing his entire career under the scorching spotlight of New York City, the man behind the pinstripes has remained somewhat of an enigma, until now.

Propelled by powerful unseen footage and candid, insightful interviews with Jeter, the documentary series aims to “discover the man behind the iconic Yankees No. 2 jersey,” said director Randy Wilkins. “I set out with this thesis statement that Derek is not just a great baseball player, but an American icon.”

Wilkins, who was born in the Bronx, was in high school during Jeter’s ascension to the Major Leagues in 1996. Over 20 years later, Wilkins had a vision of how to capture the essence of the man he once idolized. Conducting over 90 thoughtfully cultivated interviews, Wilkins set out to demystify Jeter and his time with the Yankees while highlighting his unique cultural significance in New York City.

Throughout his playing career, Jeter could be described as having a guarded relationship with the media, never letting them behind the curtain. However, as his career concluded, Jeter felt it was time to be more open.

“During my career, I never had a chance to reflect on anything,” said Jeter, looking back on the beginning stages of becoming The Captain.

What began with capturing the phone call that welcomed him to the National Baseball Hall of Fame quickly evolved into a seven-part documentary series detailing his career.

“I wanted to capture it so I can have it in the future and share it with my girls when they get older, because they probably wouldn't believe most of my career,” Jeter said.

However, Jeter was sure to keep a few of his secrets despite the candid nature of the documentary.

“There was a lot I refused to talk about,” Jeter joked as the crowd erupted in laughter during a town hall discussion at the premiere’s conclusion.

Prior to the premiere, fans clamored outside the Tribeca Performing Arts Center with Yankees paraphernalia galore. The electricity was palpable as Jeter stepped onto the red carpet and, as expected, he maintained his patented calm amidst a sea of camera flashes. Jeter was joined on the red carpet by a list of celebrities, including CC Sabathia, Joe Torre, Harold Reynolds and Lee.

As more fans arrived, the anticipation continued to build. Attendees piled into the packed theater, settled into their seats and cheers erupted as the opening scene of the documentary flashed onto the screen.

Episode one provided insight into Jeter’s upbringing as a biracial kid in Kalamazoo, Mich., and the origins of his legendary career. Spotlighting his family life, his baseball development and his path to pinstripes, the episode featured previously unseen footage of Jeter being drafted by the New York Yankees, an outcome that once seemed like a fairytale.

The episode also depicted his struggles to find his footing in the Minor Leagues while also highlighting Jeter’s perseverance to live up to the hype of being selected sixth overall in the 1992 MLB Draft. This insight reminded the audience that, despite his storybook career, it was never as easy as Jeter made it look.

Following the boisterous applause that accompanied the closing credits, Jeter walked onto the stage and was serenaded with the same “De-rek Je-ter” chants that echoed throughout Yankee Stadium for 20 years.

“I have a special relationship with the Yankee fans. You guys are everywhere,” Jeter said. “The last game I played in at Yankee Stadium was the only game that I played in that stadium, over 20 years, where we were mathematically eliminated. But it meant something to the fans and the atmosphere in that last game was like a playoff game.”

As the night concluded, Wilkins reflected on the process of cultivating the new project.

“I understand the importance and the responsibility of telling his story," he said. "I took that very seriously, out of respect for him and his great family, but also as a storyteller. You have to tell the story correctly and connect with the audience. I feel like we did that tonight.”