Derek Jeter wasn’t always the most patient hitter during his career, routinely jumping on first-pitch offerings from opposing pitchers. For the past year and a half, however, the longtime Yankees captain has had no choice but to be patient when it comes to his big day in Cooperstown.
More than 19 months after being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in a landslide -- he received 396 votes on the 397 ballots cast, the second-highest percentage (99.7%) in history behind teammate Mariano Rivera (100%) -- and 13-plus months since his induction ceremony was postponed because of a global pandemic, Jeter will finally have his day in the sun on Sept. 8.
Given the lengthy wait -- and the ever-changing news surrounding the pandemic -- Jeter is doing his best to temper his excitement until he’s actually standing at the podium.
“I don't want to jinx anything,” Jeter said. “It's been postponed, so I'm hoping that it happens next week. There were so many things going on in the world that for the first year or so, I really didn't think about it much. Early on, I was getting excited for it, then it was canceled and then your mind goes in other places. I am looking forward to getting up there next week, hopefully -- I’m knocking on wood. It’s been a long time coming.”
Two years ago, Jeter attended Rivera’s induction, making the trip to Cooperstown for the first time since his youth. That gave him a taste of what to expect, though the view from the stage will certainly be different than the one he had from the audience.
Still, in typical Jeter fashion, he’s not spending much time thinking about what that day will bring.
“As strange as this sounds or may sound, I'm trying not to think about it because I just want to go there and experience it for the first time,” Jeter said. “I'm looking forward to getting up there, going to the museum and meeting with all the Hall of Famers and spending some time with them. Obviously the ceremony and the speech, those are things that I'm trying to keep out of my mind because I want to go in there with no preconceived notions of what may happen. I want to experience it and try to enjoy it.”
Ah yes, the speech.
Jeter’s steady play and myriad on-field heroics are what landed him in the Hall of Fame, but any list of his greatest moments must include his speech following the final game at the old Yankee Stadium in September 2008. Nobody was surprised when the face of the franchise grabbed the microphone and addressed the sold-out crowd, but his words -- which came without the aid of a written speech -- served as the perfect ending to that memorable night.
With less than a week until his induction, Jeter is still going through the process of fine-tuning the speech -- though he’s doing it in a very private fashion, not wanting anybody to see or hear it before he delivers it to the crowd.
“In terms of addressing the crowd, I've done that before, but this is a little bit longer,” Jeter said. “You’re talking about a speech that’s 10-15 minutes. It's kind of hard to cover your entire career in that short period of time, but I'm still working on it.”