Don’t worry about Derek Jeter, not that you ever had reason to: The New York Yankees legend is doing just fine in his first year away from baseball.
“I love it,” Jeter said Tuesday at Siena College. “I recommend retirement for everyone.”
The 41-year-old was in town to join 100 high school students as part of Jeter’s Leaders program, an initiative of his Turn 2 Foundation. The students spent a day attending seminars and workshops centered on combating bullying and cyberbullying.
The program is part of the 2015 Social Change Project at Siena. The college has a prior connection to the famed Yankee shortstop: In 2012, Siena gave Jeter an honorary doctorate for his work with his family-run Turn 2 Foundation, which funds a variety of positive programs and activities for youths.
Jeter, a 14-time All-Star, played his entire 20-season Major League career with the Yankees, racking up 3,465 hits and a lifetime .310 average that will undoubtedly earn him enshrinement to the Baseball Hall of Fame. After a season-long farewell tour in 2014 that included tributes even in visiting ballparks, Jeter said he has acclimated well to life away from the game, saying he is “busier” than he was as a player.
“It’s been just what I expected,” Jeter told reporters in the Sarazen Student Union as he stood next to his sister, Sharlee Jeter, president of the Turn 2 Foundation. “I played a long time — 23 years professionally. I gave it everything I had, and it was time for me to move on and do something else.
“It’s been exactly what I expected. I don’t miss the daily grind of playing. It gives me more time to focus on things like the foundation and other interests I may have. . . . Trust me, I have a lot of ways to keep myself busy.”
In addition to his foundation work, Jeter launched The Players’ Tribune, an online magazine penned by athletes. He said he is exploring different things that the regimented 162-game baseball season simply precluded.
“Basically, I’m not on a schedule,” he said. “I’m not complaining by any stretch of the imagination, but our seasons are very long. You don’t have much time every single day. So now I have time to do things I’ve never done before.”
Like many of the core Yankee stars of the late 1990s and 2000s, Jeter played for the Albany-Colonie Yankees, albeit for only 34 games as a 20-year-old in 1994. He said that brief time was memorable.
“I was here for, I believe, six weeks, so I was in and out,” Jeter said. “I enjoyed my time here. Minor league experiences are some of the experiences that you never forget.
“There were a lot of Yankee fans here that always came out to support us, and throughout my playing days I always ran into people saying that they remember coming to watch the Albany-Colonie Yankees play.”
Can you picture Jeter not wearing a Yankee uniform? He did, briefly, while playing at the since-demolished Heritage Park out by Albany International Airport. When manager Bill Evers summoned Jeter to tell him he was being sent up to Columbus, Jeter thought he was getting different news.
“When I was here, I thought I was traded when I got called up to Triple-A,” he said. “It was right before the trade deadline, so I thought I was traded.”
Looking back, he could not imagine wearing another uniform, even though his one-team career is a rarity in the era of free agency.
“The only place I wanted to play was New York,” he said.
Jeter harbors hopes of becoming a part-owner of a Major League franchise. But don’t call him a fan; for now he has distanced himself from the game.
“I don’t sit around and watch the games, because I needed time away,” he said. “I didn’t watch games when I played.”
Jeter is aware how well the first-place Yankees are doing, and said he is not surprised that Alex Rodriguez, coming off his suspension for all of 2014 for performance enhancing drugs, is having an unexpected bounce-back season.
“He’s had a lot of success,” Jeter said. “Alex works extremely hard at his craft. He works as hard as anyone that I played with. I’m not surprised at all.”
Jeter was accompanied by his family on his Siena visit. With his on-field reputation secure, the Yankee is continuing to burnish his credentials away from the game.
“Everyone talks about legacy; legacy on the field, off the field,” the former shortstop said. “For us, the foundation has always been important, giving back to the community. . . . This is something that is important to me and my family.”