NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter will always be a Yankee, and now it's been made official: No. 2 forever belongs to The Captain.
A star-studded group of invitees converged upon Yankee Stadium to pay tribute to Jeter on Sunday afternoon as the longtime Yankees captain took his rightful place in Monument Park with the retirement of his No. 2, the last of the team's single-digit uniform numbers.
"What do you say on a day like this?" Jeter said, addressing the Yankee faithful from in front of the pitcher's mound, flanked by large white 2's painted on the grass in front of each dugout and surrounded by his family and a veritable "Who's Who" of his career in pinstripes.
"I'll start it with thank you to George Steinbrenner and the Steinbrenner family for giving me the opportunity to play my entire career for the only team I ever wanted to play for. I want to thank my managers, coaches, teammates, support staff, those of you who are here today and those of you who aren't for being with me along that entire journey."
Those on hand included former teammates David Cone, Tino Martinez, Hideki Matsui, Paul O'Neill, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams and Gerald Williams, and longtime manager Joe Torre.
Also in attendance were Hall of Famer and current Yankees special advisor Reggie Jackson, former Yankees player and coach Willie Randolph, Yankees VP of player development Gary Denbo (who was Jeter's first pro manager at Class A Greensboro), Dick Groch, the area scout who signed Jeter, and Jean "Soot" Zimmer, the wife of former Yankees coach Don Zimmer.
"There isn't a person or player I would trade places with who's playing now, or ever," Jeter said. "I played here in New York for 20 years. I learned that time flies, memories fade, but family is forever. And I'll be eternally grateful to be part of the Yankee family."
A bronze plaque bearing Jeter's likeness was also unveiled as the five-time World Series champion and 2000 World Series MVP became the 22nd player in franchise history to have his number retired, and the first since teammates Williams, Posada and Pettitte during the 2015 season.
"He was the leader of our group. It's the end of an era. He's it. He's the last one," Posada said.
"We all knew it was coming," Martinez said. "Let's be real about that. It was just a matter of when. He's one of the greatest Yankees of all time."
"All I want is for him to enjoy it," Rivera said. "It's something precious. You don't see this too often. It doesn't happen to any player. It has to happen to a special player, and he's one of those players."
As the ceremony began, a packed house at Yankee Stadium broke into "Der-ek Je-ter!" chants, as several video tributes to Jeter, his career and his impact on New York City played on the center-field scoreboard.
Yankees broadcasters John Sterling and Michael Kay introduced Jeter and his family to a roaring ovation from the crowd as Jeter unveiled his newly-retired number and Monument Park plaque.
"I dare you to find any player, in any sport, who was part of more memorable moments than No. 2," Kay said.
One by one, those iconic moments rolled onto the video board: Jeter's Mr. November home run, The Flip, his catch falling into the stands, the many World Series championship celebrations, his 3,000th hit, his walk-off in his final game at Yankee Stadium.
"There is one thing that stands out to me on the field for Derek Jeter," Pettitte said. "If you ever needed a big hit, especially in the playoffs, Derek was the absolute best at handling those at-bats, like I've never seen anyone handle them before."
The Yankees also played a special congratulatory video message to Jeter from Marlins manager and former Yankee captain Don Mattingly.
Jessica and Hal Steinbrenner and Jennifer Steinbrenner-Swindal, the children of the late, legendary Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, presented Jeter with framed replicas of his Monument Park plaque and retired jersey number and an honorary No. 2 ring.
Jeter's No. 2 is the 21st number retired by the Yankees, as No. 8 was retired for both Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey on Old-Timers' Day in 1972.
A 14-time American League All-Star, Jeter is sixth all-time with 3,465 career hits and tops the Yankees' all-time list in hits, games played (2,747), doubles (544), stolen bases (358), at-bats (11,195), singles (2,595) and hit-by-pitches (170).
"People get a kick out of asking me, 'Who was the best player you ever managed?'" Torre said. "And Derek -- it's an easy choice for me."
Born in New Jersey and raised in Kalamazoo, Mich., Jeter played his franchise-record 20th and final season with the Yankees in 2014, and he recorded eight seasons with at least 200 hits.
"To me, the easiest way to define Derek Jeter is, he's a winner, plain and simple," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Whether it's on the field or off the field, the guy does things the right way, he does it with class, he works extremely hard, he's there for other people. He's a winner."
Bryan Hoch/

Comments are closed.