There were no lows for Derek Jeter, because he never allowed anything but winning be part of his highs.
“What do you think was your best year?” I once asked him.
“That’s easy,” he replied. “’96. ’98, ’99, 2000. 2009. That’s it. A tie.”
Those obviously were the years his Yankee teams won the World Series.
I once asked him what he did differently in batting practice if he, say, got one hit in four games, for him a slump.
“I never change a thing,” he said. “I take it the same way every day. I want it all simple when the game starts and all I have to do is see the ball and try to hit it.”
A couple of weeks later, he tapped me with his bat. “Remember how I said I don’t complicate things by changing?” he asked. “This is the same model bat, same weight, I was given in rookie ball. Never changed a thing.”
One Sunday night some New Jersey Nets were in Boston for a playoff series against the Celtics, and wondered what I was watching. I told them I like to watch great players practice, in this case Jeter taking ground balls.
When he came in to hit, I asked him if he ever fooled around when taking grounders. He gave me a dirty look. “I made 57 errors one year in the minor leagues,” he replied, “and I can make 57 errors again.” Later said he learned that from his minor league infield instructor, Brian Butterfield.
On Opening Day, 2005, the Yankees were at Fenway to watch the Red Sox ring ceremony. Jeter stood on the top step of the dugout the entire time, tipping his cap to Johnny Pesky, watching intently. “It was,” he said afterwards, “a good lesson to remember, a reminder of what is important.”