The Human Comedy: Derek Jeter’s Day Off
Derek Jeter’s alarm went off at 7:02, the way it always did. He showered, shaved and brushed his teeth the way he always did. He fixed himself a bowl of Wheaties with soy milk — the way he always did.
And yet, everything was different. Hanging on the doorknob, in metaphor and reality, were his Nike cleats. It was the first day of The Captain’s retirement — the first day of the rest of No. 2’s life — and he had no idea what to do with himself. So he picked up his pinstriped iPhone 6 and phoned Mariano Rivera.
“Jeet?” a groggy Panamanian accent answered.
“Yo yo Mo!”
“You got any idea what time it is?”
“It’s early. I know. I just —”
“Duérmete, niño. Go back to bed.”
Sleep, how? In that sleep of retirement, what dreams would come? Bed was the last place Jeter wanted to go.
I know! he thought. I’ll call Matsui. It’s dinner time in Japan!
“You’ve been retired 10 hours, and you’re already calling?”
“No! It has nothing to do with that. I just —”
“Look, Derek: Nobody likes a Retirement Rookie. It’s like you just got called up from Double-A. You don’t know how to hit the Big League curve yet. Watch how the rest of us do it, and keep your mouth shut.”
“I was gonna’ come visit you in Tokyo. I heard the sushi —”
“Rookies don’t get sushi, Jeet. Rookies get wasabi in their jockstraps.”
Jeter did not want wasabi in his jockstrap. He hung up and went downstairs. He turned on his TV. Baseball Tonight was previewing the Wild Card matchups. He tried his publicist.
“You never call me this early, Sweetie Jeetie,” she greeted him.
“I know. I was just wondering if I’m in any headlines today.”
“Hm.” Her fingers flew across a keyboard. “Doesn’t look like it. Just some short narrative fiction site. No clue how that happened.”
Short narrative fiction? Jeter sighed. Had they forgotten about him already?
He picked up the paper and threw out the Captain-less sports section. He did the crossword, the Sudoku and the cryptogram. He read the funnies. He clipped the coupons. He folded origami. It wasn’t even nine o’clock. The batting cages didn’t open ’til noon!
He called Andy Pettitte. “Hey, ‘Roids!”
“What’s up, No Range?”
“You wanna’ get lunch today?”
“Ooh — yeah, about that … I’m already meeting Moose and Jorge. We’re going to a sick rooftop in Hell’s Kitchen. They don’t allow rookies. You know how it is.”
“No, I don’t! Since when did this become a thing?” Silence. “Andy? ‘Roids?”
Life on the outside was cold. Maybe, Jeter thought, some of the old-timers would be more inclusive. I can’t believe I’m about to do this, he told himself. But he rang David Wells, anyway.
“Well, if it isn’t Mr. I Get a Farewell Present at Every Stadium in the Friggin’ Country!”
“How you doin’, Derek? You need any black market tequila? I just got a crapload.”
“I’m good, Boom. Thanks, though. I was really just wondering if you wanted to hit the links today.”
“I would’ve said yes, but I made a tee time with Bernie, Paulie and Tino like, 20 minutes ago. Foursomes are as far as I go — you know that.”
Jeter did know that. “No worries, Boom. Next time.”
He walked onto his balcony. It was 72 degrees with a light breeze from the west. Baseball weather.
His phone rang. He looked at the caller ID, and his spirits sank even lower. “Hi, Alex.”
“Jee-terr! My man!” A-Rod always said this, and it always made Jeet’s rosin bags cringe.
“What’s up, Alex?”
“Nothin’ much. I just figured you had some time on your hands now. Maybe, you know, you want to do something — get coffee, go to the mall, feed some geese at the park. Maybe pick up some chicks. Good old quality time.”
“Oh, man! That sounds great — it really does,” Jeter said. “It’s just — I’ve got this thing … at this place … I have to be there in a few minutes …”
“What about tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow’s good, I think. No … wait … I can’t do tomorrow, either. I’ll have to give you a call when my schedule frees up.”
He put down the phone and took the longest, hardest look in the mirror of his entire life. Alex Rodriguez was calling him to hang out. He wanted to cry.
He thought of an old colleague who had been through what he was going through. They hadn’t spoken in years, but somehow, he knew his friend would understand.
“Hey, Nomar? It’s Jeter. I need your help.”
Author’s Note: None of the above story is true. What Jeter actually did on the first day of his retirement probably looked a little more like this.
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Photograph by Keith Allison