During last July's MLB All-Star game, a commercial was unveiled for Nike touting "Re2pect" as a tagline, with plenty of different people nationwide tipping their caps to the soon retiring Derek Jeter.
No matter how beautiful the message might have been, personally, Jeter would probably reject such marketing efforts as ridiculous. That much was clear in the bowels of rainy Comerica Park Tuesday night, as Jeter met with the media and humbly discussed his final trip to his home state of Michigan as a player.
Plenty of concepts were touched on with the New York Yankees' shortstop including family trips to Tiger Stadium, team rooting interests and even potential plans for hang gliding post-retirement (quickly rebuffed), but none mattered as much as that seven letter word which has come to define a single career.
Jeter was asked a simple question about treating rookie players like veterans, and if that was something which was preached to him from a young playing age by a patriarchal veteran. For the captain, it wasn't a playing lesson so much as a matter of simple common courtesy to fellow human beings.
"I've always tried to treat people with respect because I want to be treated with respect," Jeter said. "When I came up, I was never treated like a rookie …I knew people looked at me like I had a responsibility, and therefore they treated me as an equal. I've always tried to treat people the same way."
In fact, Jeter went so far as to drop more wisdom on the issue, sounding nearly as philosophical as he was inspirational. "When you meet someone, you can forget what they say, but I don't think you ever forget how they make you feel," he said. "So I always try to make people feel as comfortable as I possibly can." Jeter even admitted he didn't like the pomp and circumstance behind what's beginning to feel like his nationwide retirement tour.
"I don't like the word 'farewell tour,' it's 'our last season' is a better way to put it…. We're still trying to win," he quickly corrected, attempting to take some shine off an ever-brightening spotlight.
With all that, it's easy to understand why Jeter has become the most well-respected players in baseball history. Wit mixed with common sense and charm will take a person far, but respect will always push them over the top in the end. Forever, he's long possessed that attribute, which will make him nearly irreplaceable in the game he loves to play.
As the years go by and generations change, there's been an erosion of values, both society and game-wide. Baseball will get significantly less courteous, genial and all around nice without Jeter around, which selfishly, is the most disappointing thing about his retirement after this season.
Future generations of baseball players would be best served to follow Jeter's kind lead, whether or not a veteran tells them it's expected of them, by treating everyone with kindness, top to bottom. Doing so would be the best possible tribute to the captain, more so than wearing his number, imitating his batting stance or playing his position.
Rarely does warmth literally fill a room, but Tuesday, Jeter's glowing presence helped push storm clouds away. The reason as usual? It began and ended with respect, for everyday people, media and the game of baseball. For Jeter, respect is more than a word printed to sell t-shirts, it's his way of life.
If Jeter's career can provide some type of larger life lesson, this should be it.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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