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What makes Derek Jeter so special?

Dr. Jim Denison is the CEO of Denison Forum.
His Daily Article and podcast globally reach over 160,000 subscribers. Dr. Denison guides readers to discern today’s news—biblically. He is the author of multiple books and has taught on the philosophy of religion and apologetics at several seminaries. Prior to launching Denison Forum in 2009, he pastored churches in Texas and Georgia. He holds a Ph.D and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jim and his wife, Janet, live in Dallas, Texas. They have two sons and four grandchildren.

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New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (2) is congratulated by right fielder Ichiro Suzuki (31) after being replaced by a pinch runner during the third inning at Fenway Park on September 28, 2014, Boston, MA, USA (Credit: USA TODAY Sports/Greg M. Cooper)

Garin Cecchini was a year old when the New York Yankees drafted Derek Jeter in 1992.  Cecchini played shortstop as a kid, and Jeter was his favorite player.  He is now a rookie playing for the Boston Red Sox and wears No. 70, the number assigned to Jeter by the Yankees in spring training the year before he made the majors.

Last weekend, Jeter finished his major league career in Boston.  Each game, he hit an infield single that Cecchini eventually fielded.  The New York Times quoted Ceccini on Jeter: “He’s a guy you respect and kind of want to idolize because everyone liked him.  And he was a winner.  He’s won a lot of games, won championships.  That’s all you want to be recognized as in this sport: a winner.”

I disagree.  There’s no doubt Derek Jeter was a winner: his Yankees won five world championships during his career.  But Bill Dickey and Frankie Crosetti won eight; Herb Pennock and Tommy Henrich won seven; Vic Raschi, Red Ruffing, and Spud Chandler were among several players who won six.

I believe that Jeter is the most revered baseball player in the world today, not just because of how many games and championships he won, but because of how he won them.  He once explained his approach to life: “My parents told me to treat people like you want to be treated.  Be respectful.  Speak when you need to talk not just to hear your own voice. . . .”

Teammates talk about his humility and his genuine desire to be kind to everyone, from fans in the stands to the game’s greatest players.  Jeter recently told The Washington Post, “I’ve made my fair share of mistakes.  But I try to learn from other people’s mistakes.  And don’t make the same mistake twice.”  And he offered this sage observation: “You are who you are.  If I tried to be something that I’m not, I think after 20 years they would have figured it out.”

In a culture where athletes, celebrities, and political leaders seem to make daily headlines for moral failures, we’re starved for authenticity and character.  I’m not claiming that Jeter is a model of biblical purity—his much-discussed dating life has made tabloid headlines for years.  But I do admire his passionate commitment to playing the game the right way, and his consistent respect for those who watched him and those who played with him and against him.

Derek Jeter was not the greatest hitter or fielder in baseball history, or even during his own career.  But his character made him as beloved as his athletic achievements.  That’s a lesson for those who would serve Jesus well: who we are is remembered long after what we did is forgotten.

Think of those Christians who have most influenced you.  Was it what they said?  Can you even remember something they said?  Or was it who they were?  What is the key to being a person of such influence today?

Oswald Chambers: “If you want to be of use to God, maintain the proper relationship with Jesus Christ by staying focused on Him, and He will make use of you every minute you live—yet you will be unaware, on the conscious level of your life, that you are being used of Him.”

Jesus was clear: “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:6).  Would those who know you say you are abiding in Jesus today?

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