Money & Careers

Two More Words About Derek Jeter: His Mom

Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter

The most remarkable thing about the Jeter family may be how unremarkable they are. True, like the most famous of their family of four, none have courted drama, coveted the spotlight, coaxed more than their share of a sports story. They’re content being ordinary.

That’s one way to look at it, and after the oceans of ink and months of broadcast time devoted to the Yankee shortstop’s retirement, we might be tempted to say, Let’s just go with that. But the truth is, you can’t look at Dorothy Jeter or hear about how she reared her children without thinking, “Remarkable.”

Her son declared his intention to play the position he played on the major league team he played for when he was about 5 years old, and was pretty much close to a phenomenal player by his third season of Little League. His mom was his catcher when he practiced.

Still, she was anything but his pal.

It’s been widely reported that in the Sports Achievers Biography Series volume entitled Derek Jeter: Surefire Shortstop, she had this to say:

“Derek had goals, but he knew if he wanted to play in the Little League all-star game or go to baseball camp, he better come home with a 4.0, he better have his behavior intact . . . he better make curfew or he wasn’t going anywhere.”

Would that this were ordinary in the lives of children who are athletically gifted. Would that young men who have fabulous speed, strength, or hand-to-eye coordination were treated as if character was about academics as much as it is about the team or the score. Self-respect doesn’t start with a contract and a signing bonus, though self-regard is often part of that picture. That the 40-year-old who left baseball on Sunday, September 28, is an icon of humility and self-respect has his mother’s hand all over it.

jeterfamilyThe Jeter Family. (Image via)

And, speaking of contracts, in case you haven’t heard this part of the story, before every school year, Charles and Dorothy Jeter required Derek and his younger sister, Sharlee, to sign a handwritten contract that detailed their commitment to specific study habits, acceptable grade point average, early curfew times, and compliance with a zero tolerance policy about drugs and alcohol use.

How many parents of a junior-year basketball hero and high-school major league prospect have the perspective to create their own requirements for study, grades, and curfew instead of handing that over to the coach who is burnishing their son’s star?

Derek Jeter’s mom and dad are clearly special. In 2005, Dorothy Jeter told 60 Minutes that during every game she attended, from Little League right through the majors, he’d look over at her and give her a nod before his first at-bat. We like to think he was giving a nod to how he’d get to have a 20-year career that will always be reported in terms of his stunning example of good behavior.

We at Women’s Voices for Change tip our caps to a woman who got it so very right. The applause was for her son, but the cheers were for her, too.

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