Thursday, October 16, 2014

So Long, Jeets

I’ve never really been a baseball fan. When I grew up the Brewers were bad. Starting in 4th grade I got caught up in the Minnesota Twins’ 1987 World Series championship hoopla, since Minneapolis was so close to Eau Claire. Though I proudly wore the two championship sweatshirts that my Uncle Ron gave me once a week for the rest of that year, my Twins support was fleeting. I’ve certainly rarely cheered for the New York Yankees: aka The Evil Empire with bottomless pockets to spend on players. I’ve always found that aspect of MLB baseball unfair. But I have always enjoyed Derek Jeter. Just a classy, clutch player. That’s why, like many, I found Jeter’s last at bat in the last home game of his illustrious career pretty compelling. Spoiler alert: he hit a walk off single to win the game. In the big picture it was meaningless because the win had zero impact on the standings, as the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs weeks ago. But it was a pretty awesome moment that epitomized Jeets over the years.


Anyway, as Jeter’s career came to a close and the MLB playoffs got into full swing I couldn’t help but think about the first time I heard of him. It was October 1996 and the New York Yankees were in a tight World Series battle with the Atlanta Braves. That fall I made the difficult decision to move from post-SCI rehab at the local hospital in Eau Claire, WI that was close to my family to a much more aggressive rehab institution – Craig Hospital in Denver. It was one of the most lonely and challenging two months of my life, but in retrospect the best thing that I could have done at the time because I probably wouldn’t be near as independent a quad as I am now without it.

When I wasn’t in therapy sessions I passed most of my time laying in my hospital bed watching TV on a six in TV set on a swinging arm that could reposition itself to be within view regardless of which side that patients laid on. Huge chunks of my evenings were spent watching the 1996 World Series, which was dripping with national intrigue. On one side you had the dynasty that never was: the Braves, a perennially stacked baseball team that, despite having three of the all-time best pitchers in the same starting rotation, only managed to win one ring. On the other side was the Yankees: the team that had won the most World Series trophies in the history of the game, but hadn’t won a championship in almost two decades in a city starving for another one. But the most standout thing about that World Series to me was all the buzz surrounding the rookie phenom Derek Jeter, who was playing beyond his years.

As I watched Jeter over the years I couldn’t help but share a bond with him because of that, even if he did play for the baseball team that I liked seeing lose the most. Now all these years later I had my 18th anniversary of my SCI as Jeter retired from baseball. But as he made such an epic walk-off single to win that game as he closed out his baseball career, I couldn’t help but think, “Wouldn’t it be nice if my SCI ‘career’ came to such a mesmerizing end right now as well?”

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