Daily Archives: August 13, 2013
It’s not a secret that Derek Jeter is the Captain of the New York Yankees. His presence in the clubhouse, how he keeps his composure after tough losses and how he has that mentality that if it’s not broken, he can play is what makes him one of the greatest Yankees alive. When reporters go to the clubhouse, they anticipate going to see what wisdom Derek Jeter has for them today. What knowledge he’s going to instill in their brain, what sarcastic humor he has up his sleeve. The Yankees are a gigantic ship and Derek Jeter is their Captain.
But when Derek Jeter was constantly out of the lineup this season, the team started to look lost and confused, losing games constantly and feeling as if there was no hope for their play-off dreams. I remember discussing Derek Jeter’s injuries and the Yankees troubles with my mother one day, and the words that came out of her mouth had me thinking long and hard for the next couple of months:
“The Yankees ship can’t go anywhere if it doesn’t have a captain to steer them.”
The Yankees looked as if they were giving up, as if all was hopeless for the team. They still weren’t doing their best on the field and they became defeated–until the media decided to speak to the normally quiet Brett Gardner. For the last couple of seasons, Gardner was just one of the guys in the clubhouse. He was quiet, he never had much to say and he continued to try to keep his starting job in left field. But after a tough loss, something sparked Gardner to talk to the media, about what Derek Jeter had taught him.
“One thing I’ve really learned from Jeet over the years. He’s not here right now, but he’s been so good at turning the page. Doesn’t matter if you are 0-for-5 or 5-or-5, or if we win or lose, we’ve got a game tomorrow. As soon as we walk out here tonight, we’ve got to focus on getting ready to play tomorrow.”
Ever since Brett Gardner uttered those words, I never looked at him the same again. Before that night, he was one of the guys just trying to get on base like he normally does in order to help the team win. But that night, he became someone–a leader. The times that he was quiet, he would spend it observing Derek Jeter, what Derek Jeter would do, what Derek Jeter would say, how Derek Jeter would handle a situation. Gardner would observe everything and in the end, it seemed like he was the one to learn the most from the Captain. From that moment on, Gardner became a huge catalyst on the team, driving in runs, getting on base, giving up his body for the game of baseball, playing hard and gritty as he always does, all to make sure that his team would reach victory.
He took it upon himself to create a new walk-off tradition after A.J Burnett took his pies to Pittsburgh. He thought of Gatorade. He would pour Gatorade on players that hit a walk-off. It became a hit with the crowd and soon, he was the one being doused in his own walk-off creation after saving the Yankees from two extra losses this past weekend. Joe Girardi would quip that Gardner enjoyed the walk-off tradition more than anyone on the team, and that when the time came, he should be a football coach just to take baths in Gatorade after a victory.
Gardner was even talking to the media more, the media wanting insight on what happened each night, his thoughts on a particular player. Typical Gardner would nod politely, give his opinion as professionally as possible and still find some ways to bring the win around the team, even if he was the one that hit a game winning base-hit or saved a play in the outfield. With Gardner it was all about the team, something he learned from Derek Jeter. He would sign things for kids, he was more active around the team, he showed he was the heart and hustle, hence winning the 2013 Heart and Hustle Award. He proved he had love for the game and it wasn’t about the money. He enjoys being out there and it’s evident every time that he goes to the plate.
When he messes up and gets tossed from a game, he goes back the next day to apologize to the umpire for what he believes was his irrational behavior. When he doesn’t make a catch that he thought he could make, he vows to his teammates and to himself that he’ll get the next one. When the chips are down and things look impossible for the Yankees, Gardner steps up.
Joe Girardi took a notice to Brett Gardner’s leadership behavior and frankly, he has been impressed by the young spunky outfielder.
“Gardy is fiery, and I think his personality comes out. It’s been great having him all year. As I said, we really missed him last year – what he’s capable of doing. His personality has definitely come out this year. It’s good.”
When Jeter returns from the disabled list, the job of Captain will once again be his, but us Yankees fans can never forget to thank Brett Gardner for being the one to step up and keeping other teams from sinking our battleship.