When Moments Move Us: Jeter’s Last Home Game

I had to do it.

There are moments in life that are bigger than us. Bigger than the games we watch and the money we spend. There are rare times when ‘at any cost’ is to be used. There are very few legitimate ‘Once-in-a-Lifetime’ events.

Derek Jeter’s last home game is one of them.

I bought two tickets. I had to. I have spent weeks debating how to handle Derek Jeter’s last game in Yankee Stadium and finally dove in.

I sat on my couch during the All-Star Game and watched as it turned into an early representation of what tonight will be. I got chills, shed tears, paced around the room, and refused to stare at the screen long enough to allow the emotion to destroy me.

“Did you expect him to play forever?” Of all the comments and questions shared after Derek Jeter announced his retirement prior to the ’14 season, none was more prevalent than this. The question carried its own power and weight. It was rhetorical – the answer was obvious and thus, not required. It was an attempt at comfort – surely, this day was inevitable.

It was devoid of emotion.

Anyone who knows me also knows that I am not one to remove emotion from any equation.

This is the man who helped me fall in love with baseball. This is the man who I, along with the rest of the New York Tri-State Area, wanted to emulate. This is Derek Jeter. I could not be watching from my couch when his time to say goodbye would arrive.

Even with that insistence, the sickening feeling that I could not go through this same feelings again, I failed to act. I waited, tossed ideas back and forth, and let the decision elude me. When Jeter’s final week of baseball arrived, I found it impossible to turn on the television and watch the train pull into its station.

So I wrote. I wrote my little tribute to the man who I have worshiped for my entire baseball-watching life, and almost my entire existence altogether. When I was nearly finished, I dug through the archives for something else. I pulled out what I had written in February when Jeter first announced his retirement.

Holding the two pieces side-by-side on my computer screen, I compared how I felt then to how I feel now. Nothing had changed. Suddenly, the work of two different versions of myself had combined for a piece that accurately depicted how I feel about my team’s Captain.

I merged the two documents, slicing sections that were repetitive with the help of a few editors. Keeping the emotion in tact as best as I could, I submitted it to XN Sports, where I am now contributing. It is probably the most emotional piece I will ever write outside of the times I document my feelings on Tina, Hayley, and any future little ones that may enter my life.

Immediately after completing the article days ago, I turned back to the other tabs open on my browser. StubHub. Ticketmaster Exchange. Yankee Seating Views.

I bought two tickets.

When the tears filled my eyes as I wrapped up my own personal Derek Jeter Tribute, I knew that I could not allow myself to regret this moment anymore. I told my dad that we would be splitting two tickets to the game, and that we would go to see Jeter bid farewell to the Bronx.

Hours later, we placed the order. I checked the weather before and after purchasing the tickets and, ironically, the “closest” we could have gotten to the field for what could have been considered a reasonable price left us under the overhang of upper deck. In a way, a stroke of good luck.

In reality, a sad reminder that rain is imminent. In fact, it’s not raining because of the weather patterns. It’s raining because I bought tickets to tonight’s game. Think this sounds egotistical? Consider the fact that my bachelor party – an awesome event in its own right – was a Yankee game. Which game? The one in which Derek Jeter would likely tally his 3,000th career hit. Instead, it rained.

Less than 24 hours later, Jeter got five hits and blew through the milestone. I wasn’t there.

I couldn’t let that happen again. Hopefully, Mother Nature agrees.

I believe the game will go on, albeit it may span more hours than I care to imagine. But I will be there. With my dad. Crying. It was, after all, with him that I would stay awake far past my bedtime in October of 1996 to watch the Yankees in the World Series.

It was, at that young age, that I learned the lesson of how important it is to not let a moment pass us by, regardless of the consequence. At that time, little sleep for a ten year old boy was considered a ‘major sacrifice.’

As soon as I had officially purchased the tickets, a sadness overcame me. Sure, I would be experiencing this game with my dad, but what about my daughter?

I take pride in putting Hayley to bed every night. In fact, it’s my favorite part of the day. Furthermore, I had spent two years explaining to Hayley that Derek Jeter was the greatest human on the planet. Tonight, I won’t be with her, neither to read her a bedtime story or watch the Captain take his final curtain call at Yankee Stadium.

I talked about this with my friend, and shared my concerns. Fitz, as he is lovingly referred to by all, reminded me of exactly why Hayley is the reason I should be going tonight, instead of avoiding it.

“You are showing your daughter that there are times when you need to be as good a son as you are a father.”

Taking it one step further, his words also carry a bigger lesson. Paraphrasing slightly, our conversation yielded the following conclusion: There are times when the moment trumps all else, and you need to acknowledge it at any cost.

The lesson learned on the phone hours after I purchased tickets to what would be an unforgettable night mirrored the exact theme shared in the late hours of October nights in 1996, whether with my dad, mom, or nanny and gramps – don’t miss the moments.

I won’t.

I will be there tonight, rain or… rain, I guess, and I will take in every memory. Hayley, I’m sorry you won’t be there, but understand that there are times when the moments move us.

After all, it’s what I learned through watching Derek Jeter play baseball with my father.

And it’s what I plan to pass down to you.

Second Birthday Blessings and Blues

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I had originally planned to write nothing. I had originally planned to enjoy the day as any other. I had originally planned to not feel this way.

I was told many things a little over two years ago, as my wife was preparing to have our first child. At the top of the list was how drastically my life was about to change. Those who spoke these words spoke the truth, but for a number of different reasons.

For starters, all the warnings of losing sleep or missing milestones did not fall on deaf ears. I heard, and I chose to listen or ignore. Either way, I was aware of a decision and I thank those who warned. But the warning of a life change is different. It is a unique experience for all, and no one could have prepared me for exactly how I would be impacted.

The first year did not fly by. Now that the second year is coming to a close, I can say with confidence that, by comparison, there is no comparison. The first year was filled with every milestone, picture, and video that could be recorded. In that way, it will probably be the most eventful year of my child’s life.

The second year transpired in one week.

Every part of my life has, indeed, changed, but not because of my daughter’s presence, but rather who she is as a person.

For the exact reasons why the first year was so satisfyingly drawn out, the second year, as the direct opposite, was a blur. We purposely stopped trying to count Hayley’s age in months as an effort to stretch the year across 365 days, and still found it unable to work. In the end, I sat on my couch tonight,  amazed at what my daughter had become during her second year of life.

Those same people who warned me about how fast childhood goes also warned me that it gets worse when a routine has set in. Typically, this means school, and it will only speed up at that point. But that has also contributed to the blazingly quick past twelve months. Tina and I felt like we had finally hit our stride with our daughter, and life was going to be business as usual from that point on. It was, and that was the problem.

Now, as I watch the video of Hayley’s first year with us, I sob. Tina asked me why. She asked if I was sad. She asked me how I could be so upset.

I am neither sad, nor upset, nor sobbing out of depression.

I am blessed.

I see the face of my daughter on the television, and it is the same face (slightly smaller) than the one sitting to my right with her hands on Tina’s knee. I hear her laugh on screen and it mimics that which I heard minutes earlier. I see her smile and I see Hayley smile.

I cry because I know that, as much has changed throughout the two years, that’s how little has changed. While each day goes by, and absolutely nothing new has transpired, I discover that, somehow, I am able to fall more in love with a person. I don’t see it coming, and I didn’t see it pass. I only feel it when I look back and see what has multiplied throughout the past two years.

Then I cry because I know she loves me too. I see a video of me and my daughter dancing, and I know that, in ten minutes, we will be dancing again. I see her wrapped in my (our) yellow blanket, and I see her bolt off the couch to grab it again. I see her falling asleep in my arms on screen and I see her falling asleep in my arms upstairs, tonight.

The series of images pass my blurred eyes, and each one brings a different emotion. I find a soft smile in how adorable my daughter looks in most of the typical pictures. I find the pained yearning for last year when I see the videos. I find the swelling of love for a life lived when I see moments unfolding.

As always, it is the moments that bring the impact.

The moment when the tree fell on our house and Hayley was beaming with happiness because she got to stay up late and sleep downstairs with mommy and daddy. The moment when I accidentally found a fat, round Jets stuffed animal and realized that Hayley was hysterically laughing at it (and the moment we bought it). The moment when the heat in our house was broken and Hayley had to wear a winter hat inside for a few days.

It is the moments, whether captured or not, that make life memorable. It is the recognition of these moments that make life special.

I had planned on not writing anything tonight because I found it difficult, at first, to pinpoint how I felt about my daughter’s second birthday. Part of me wanted it to be “just another day” so that I would not be forced into a position of sadness, but a bigger part wanted it to be special, regardless of the consequence.

I planned on simply wishing my two-year old daughter a Happy Birthday and continuing on with business as usual. Then I saw the video and remembered how important it is to accentuate the moments and break away from the mundane.

I remembered who caused me to feel this way and why she deserves everything she has received.

I remembered why children are the greatest gifts of life and why a altering a plan is always worth the story it tells.

I remembered how my life has been forever changed.

And I will always remember who changed it.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Hayley!

Stop Jinxing my Jinx

There is a growing trend in the sports viewing public that has risen to an unacceptable level. It is destroying an integral aspect of being a fan and has growing support from the media. It is swallowing the events about which it is referring, and it is becoming the story rather than enhancing it.

The jinx.

A no-hitter was just completed. No matter how often this is witnessed, it is always exciting. It’s thrilling to watch. It’s nerve-wracking to follow. It’s a great moment that creates memories.

The game ended with a groundout to second base, and the pitcher had etched his name in the history books (in this specific example, for the second time). The MLB At-Bat application, in a complete stroke of catering to its diehard audience, sent multiple push notifications indicating that this event was occurring. As an added bonus, a “Live Look-in” was also offered. For free.

This is what makes sports so beautiful. It’s not just the championships or highlight reel plays. It’s the moments. The moments that come at any time without reason or foreshadowing. One minute, a pitcher appears to have lost one of the potentially great careers of his generation, the next, he is three outs away from throwing his second no-hitter in less than one calendar year. MLB recognized this and offered a piece of history to its fans.

One of MLB’s future diehards, my almost two-year old daughter, sat in her highchair awaiting dinner. In a move of admittedly bad parenting, I put the ninth inning of the game on my phone and slid over towards her. I explained to her, in very careful phrasing, that “this was a rare moment” and, most importantly, “something big was happening”.

Within seconds of the completion of the game, I went on Twitter to share my excitement for witnessing this pitcher’s accolade. Immediately, the wind was drawn from my sails and the excitement of the moment vanished.

“See? We didn’t jinx the no-hitter!”

“The announcers mentioned the no-hitter and it wasn’t jinxed!”

“JINX! JINX! JINX!”

Maybe the last one was a little exaggerated, but the tone and theme of the social media was evident. Except, it wasn’t necessarily the social media.

I am not a big proponent of bashing the sports media. In fact, I was part of it for a brief time. I admire those who do the work I do not and I see the power of their words. But that is why their reaction is so disheartening.

Probably because of the voice that social media gives to its fans, the collective masses speak loudest when in unison. Over the past year, it has been extremely obvious that the fans have spoken out against announcers mentioning a “no-hitter” or “perfect game” in the midst of one. But the issue does not lie with the fans taking exception to this. Instead, it falls squarely on those who attempt to counter it.

Announcers and analysts now openly complain about how upset the fans get regarding their mention of a no-hitter. They vehemently argue that, not only is there no such thing as a jinx, but that they are not responsible for it. This outright dismissal of something that so harmless and innate to being a fan is infuriating and disheartening. Who is anybody to tell me how to be a fan?

It’s fun. Sports can be deduced to merely those two words. It’s fun. Fun to play. Fun to watch. Fun to analyze. It brings out the kid inside all of us. It brings out the kid that believes that we, the unlucky millions who did not strike the genetic lottery, actually have some impact on what we are watching.

I am awed by some of the athleticism I witness. This is because I cannot replicate it myself. But awe will only take me so far. What keeps me invested is the storylines, the unforeseen events, and, most importantly, the interaction.

I move my seat if my team is losing. I keep my hand still if they are winning. I do not mention the words “no-hitter” when relaying the message to my daughter. I do these things because it enhances my experience. And that’s why we watch sports. The fact that my beliefs have now become the story is another sad indication that the way watch sports is ever-changing.

Why does it have to be this way? Fans complain, all the time, about something. Why is the jinx what sets off the sports media? Maybe it is no more than insecurity. Maybe those people who are so quick to point out a “fake jinx” are secretly relieved that they have the ammo. If so, my belief in jinxes has obviously affected something.

For all the aspects of sports upon which I have an opinion, I rarely find something as simple as a jinx so divisive. It is harmless, in every way (at least, no less harmless than most of what drives fans to call into a radio show). It is no more than a series of beliefs that I hold. You don’t have to agree. I didn’t ask you to suddenly take my side. I only ask that you don’t try to convert me, as well.

I am not a professional athlete, coach, or owner. I can’t influence the game I love in any quantifiable way.

I am but a mere fan and I can think that I am part of a greater whole. Why can’t that count for something?