TAMPA, Fla. — Derek Jeter’s illustrious reign as the most revered shortstop in New York Yankees history, spanning three memory-packed decades, is coming to a close.
Following a routine workout at the Yanks’ minor league complex Wednesday morning, the captain soon released a lengthy statement via Facebook to announce that 2014 would be his final season as a player.
“Last year was a tough one for me. As I suffered through a bunch of injuries, I realized that some of the things that always came easily to me and were always fun had started to become a struggle,” Jeter said on his Facebook page. “So really, it was months ago when I realized that this season would likely be my last.”
Jeter shared that thought with family and close friends, who told him to reserve any statements of retirement until he was absolutely certain.
“And the thing is, I could not be more sure,” Jeter said. “I know in my heart.” Even though Jeter will turn 40 this June, the timing of his public decision stunned Yankees executives from the Bronx to Tampa, where the captain went through a normal two-hour session that included four rounds of on-field batting practice and 42 groundballs fielded.
But just prior to that activity, Jeter phoned Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner.
“I told him that I respected his decision because I know he put a lot of thought into it,” Steinbrenner said in a statement. “I also let him know that I thought it was great that he was letting fans know now so they will have a chance to say goodbye to him.”
In that regard, Jeter exits the way Mariano Rivera did last season — providing advance notice of his last go-round.
“I want to soak in every moment of every day this year, so I can remember it for the rest of my life,” Jeter said via Facebook. “And most importantly, I want to help the Yankees reach our goal of winning another championship.”
Jeter has played on five world champions and seven pennant winners, with 13 All-Star appearances. But he’s seen his fellow pinstriped icons fade into retirement, culminating with the trumpeted farewells of Rivera and Andy Pettitte last season.
The last of those remaining core Yankees, Jeter played in only 17 games in 2013 due to the slow recovery of a broken left ankle suffered during the 2012 playoffs, another ankle fracture last spring and further leg issues last summer.
“I always said to myself that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it would be time to move forward,” said Jeter, who recently began positioning himself toward post-baseball career endeavors such as his own publishing company.
Jeter has long said he’d like to be a future owner in baseball, not a manager, coach or broadcaster. And his philanthropic pursuits, such as the Turn 2 Foundation he established, will continue to occupy his attention.
“In the 21-plus years in which I have served as commissioner, Major League Baseball has had no finer ambassador than Derek Jeter,” Bud Selig said in a statement. “He remains an exemplary face of our sport.”
“Derek has set the standard that we should all strive to achieve,” said Tony Clark, executive director of the players union and a former Jeter teammate.
On Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo’s SiriusXM radio show, ex-Yankee manager Joe Torre expressed some surprise about Jeter’s public announcement. But, “I think he realized that at some point the end has to come and he’s just going to drink it all in. He certainly has earned that right.”
A world champion and the AL Rookie of the Year in 1996, a World Series MVP in 2000, a member of the 3,000-hit club — arriving with a home run — Jeter talked about experiencing “so many defining moments in my career.
“Through it all, I’ve never stopped chasing the next one. I want to stop the chase and take in the world.”
Jeter wrote of expanding his charitable and business ventures and starting a family, while thanking his own family and the Steinbrenner clan — especially the late owner George Steinbrenner.
And he opened and closed by thanking the fans. Jeter said he couldn’t have imagined playing anywhere else, a dream fulfilled from the time he was a youthful Yankee fan growing up in Michigan.
“I have achieved almost every personal and professional goal I have set,” Jeter said. “I have gotten the very most out of my life playing baseball and have absolutely no regrets.”