I do not remember the beginning of my baseball fandom, at least not as a single data point dividing the before and after. I guess that’s the way it is for every lifelong fan.
My early memories of baseball include scarfing down my dinner so I could run downstairs and watch as much of the Yankee game as possible before bedtime. I’d holler up to my dad, “0-0! Game just started,” and he’d come down and watch the first few innings with me before going to bed. I’d wake up the next morning to find a post-it note on the side of the kitchen counter with the final score and a quick line about what happened. Dad was already at work.
I had memorized the Yankees’ lineup long before I ever went to kindergarten. And, as my fandom grew in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, an all-time Yankee great became my hero: Jorge Posada. The gritty, fiery catcher was my connection to baseball during those formative years, his impact as significant as those post-it notes and cartoonish eating habits.
When the rest of the young Yankees fans were wearing No. 2 and doing their best Jeter Jump Throw imitation, I was bending my knees and hunching over ever-so slightly in the batter’s box and learning to hit from both sides of the plate. My friends all wanted to play shortstop; I wanted to catch. They wore batting gloves and practiced reapplying them with the bat wedged under their arm-pit; I gripped the bat barehanded and occasionally dusted some dirt on my batting helmet—only later finding out that it was actually extra pine tar coated around the NY logo. When they’d mention the Jeter Flip Play, I’d point out it was Posada who applied the swipe tag.
All of this isn’t to say Derek Jeter, the greatest shortstop in Yankees history and a sure-fire Hall of Famer, wasn’t important to me. Those Core Four teams that won four World Series in five years and five total wouldn’t have done all that without The Captain. But, as everyone shouts angrily at one another this holiday season and churns out hot takes about Jeter’s legacy compared to all the other players on the Hall of Fame ballot, now is the time to pen an ode to my favorite player, one who was just as instrumental to the team I loved.
There will be plenty of time over the next two months to pin one player’s legacy against another. To make the case to honor one’s achievements by bashing those of another. To fire up the radioactive Twittersphere and while dodging the incessant impeachment dialogue, settle for the less hazardous but equally mind-numbing threads about why Jeter deserves to stand on the Cooperstown stage alone.
For now, the week of Thanksgiving, let’s appreciate all the players of all levels of talent who made us care about baseball. This is a time of reflection, of gratitude, for all that is good in this mad, mad world. Jorge Posada, like Jeter and Larry Walker, and Scott Rolen and Jeff Kent, was and still is good. Because apart from his borderline (read: worthy) Hall of Fame resume, he made a lifelong baseball fan of me, and countless other New Yorkers like me.
And that’s something all fans of this great game can get behind.