“The Captain” Pt 1 | The Early Years Of Derek Jeter, Understanding His Place In America

“The Captain” Pt 1 | The Early Years Of Derek Jeter, Understanding His Place In America

MLBbro.com will be offering some analysis on the seven-part documentary about the life of iconic MLBbro and five-time World Series champion Derek Jeter, airing on ESPN each Thursday.

Mark Gray will be providing commentary after each episode.

Part 1: The Early Years 

As a player who deftly navigated a legendary athlete’s life for two decades in New York, Derek Jeter was bigger than Broadway and larger than life. Despite his well-publicized private life and the success, he enjoyed living his childhood dream as New York Yankees shortstop. Jeter’s career back story is coming to life in a multi-episode documentary series.

“The Captain” chronicles how the Yankees five-time world champion and face of the franchise navigated through games on the field and off it.  In the first episode of the series Jeter breaks the silence about his childhood and the family’s impact on his Hall of fame career and the journey from Kalamazoo, MI to the Bronx which was his life’s plan.

“I’m a Yankee and I’ll always be a Yankee,” Jeter says. “That’s what I did that’s who I am…shortstop for the New York Yankees.”

Jeter is the most candid he has ever been on camera and displays the same confidence and swag he played with. The Hall Of Fame shortstop, several teammates, NYC based journalists, and a host of broadcasters, peel back the layers of complexity that marked the early catalyst of the Yankees 90s dynasty. The opening scene features highlights from his final game in the Bronx where he speaks with confident reflection after 20 years playing in the footsteps of history at one of the most revered positions in sports.

“I take a lot of pride saying that it’s the only position I ever played,” Jeter said.  “Its the only thing I ever wanted to do and the only team I ever wanted to play for.”

Jeter speaks of his days growing up in Kalamazoo where the baseball diamond was a social sanctuary as he was integrating into American culture. He speaks about a “hyper focus” where he locks in on a task and tunes the world out which led to his earning the USA Today’s High School Player of the Year.

That was the first of many goals he set for himself before his days of glory in the boogie down.

His parents met in Germany while Charles – his father – was finishing his military career in the U.S. Army.  They were transparent in speaking about the difference he would see socially in the United States as compared to how they were perceived as a couple in Europe because of their mixed-race relationship. He credits his father Charles, an HBCU graduate from Fisk University in Nashville, TN, for preparing him with confidence to deal with bi-racial social biases as a Black man in the USA. Jeter admits that he played shortstop because it was the same position his father played at Fisk.

Jeter was born and bred to be a Yankee.  He speaks with great reverence for their contemporary legends. The Captain pays homage to other great Black Yankees including Willie Randolph and Reggie Jackson but admits that his favorite player growing up was Dave Winfield.  As a precocious teenager with his parents at the old Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Jeter and Winfield met following a game against the Tigers.

“I was able to make contact with Derek and his dad spoke briefly with them before we left town,” Winfield recalls.  “You never know how that moment in time, with me being the person I was, impacted a person’s life.” 

Stay tuned for Part 2 analysis.