Sportsmen of the Year

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David Goldman/AP

Derek Jeter, 2009 Sportsman of the Year

December 02, 2009
by findingDulcinea Staff
Following a season in which he broke the franchise record for all-time hits and won the fifth World Series championship of his career, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year for 2009.

Jeter’s Family and Childhood

Derek Sanderson Jeter was born on June 26, 1974, in Pequannock, N.J., the son of an African-American father and a white mother. When he was 5 years old, his family moved to Kalamazoo, Mich., where he learned to play baseball.

Jeter distinguished himself through hard work, optimism and family values. A 1999 Westchester Journal News article explained that Jeter’s dream was “built on three generations of love, sweat and tears.” His parents and grandparents insisted on teaching Jeter the value of personal achievement paired with respect for others.

A 2006 segment on Jeter by CBS’ “60 Minutes” revealed how his father kept Derek out of trouble: “Every year from the time he was a kid until he graduated high school, Derek had to sign a contract drawn up by his father. He would be permitted to play baseball only if he complied with all 18 clauses, including ‘no arguing,’ ‘no alcohol and drugs,’ and ‘respect girls.’”

After winning Sportsman of the Year, Jeter credited his parents and asked that his father introduce him at the award ceremony. Asked about the Sports Illustrated cover, Jeter remarked, “The only thing that I thought was missing from that were my parents on both sides. Even if you don't see them, just know that they're there beside me at all times.”

Jeter’s Yankee Career

Jeter grew up a Yankees fan thanks to his grandmother’s love of the team. After his senior year of high school, his dream to play for the Yankees was realized: Jeter was the team’s sixth pick in the 1992 MLB Draft.

Jeter reached the majors in 1995 and the following year became the Yankees’ starting shortstop. He won the Rookie of the Year Award that year and helped the Yankees to their first World Series championship since 1978.

He earned the respect of his veteran teammates for his work ethic and maturity, and became a fan favorite. He was “New York's most adored ballplayer in at least a decade,” Michael Silver wrote for Sports Illustrated.

He led the Yankees to the three straight World Series championships between 1998 and 2000, winning World Series MVP in the 2000 “Subway Series” after winning the All-Star game MVP earlier in the year. “Derek Jeter is, above all else, a winner,” wrote Nick Acocella for ESPN.

Jeter made history in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, the first that ever extended into November. He hit the game-winning homer just minutes after midnight of Oct. 31, earning the nickname “Mr. November.”

In 2003, Jeter was named the 11th captain in Yankees history. “He represents all that is good about a leader,” Yankees owner George Steinbrenner told The New York Times. “I'm a great believer in history, and I look at all the other leaders down through Yankee history, and Jeter is right there with them.”

In 2009, his 15th season with the Yankees, Jeter broke Lou Gehrig’s record for most hits all-time by a Yankee. Jeter, who a year earlier had broken Gehrig’s record for most hits at Yankee Stadium, also holds the franchise record for at-bats and is closing in on the record for games played, doubles, runs scored and stolen bases.

Jeter capped the year by reaching base in all 15 postseason games and hitting .407 in a six-game World Series victory over the Phillies. It was Jeter’s fifth World Series championship of his career, but his first since 2000.

Jeter’s Work in the Community

In addition to his success as a ball player, Jeter created the Turn 2 Foundation to encourage kids to stay motivated in school while avoiding drugs and alcohol. The program awards grants and scholarships to kids who show strong academic achievement and leadership.

Jeter was awarded the 2009 Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to the player who combines dedication to community service work with exceptional on-field play, for his work with Turn 2. “It's probably just as important to him, if not more important than his baseball honors and it's something he wants to do,” said his sister Sharlee. “And to be awarded to just do what you think is right is probably more rewarding.”

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