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Derek Jeter: In his own words


Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year DerekJeter is the cover subject profiled by SI senior writer Tom Verducci in this week's edition of the magazine. Here are bonus highlights from Verducci's interviews with Jeter.

SI: You grew up as a big fan of Dave Winfield. Was your Turn 2 Foundation inspired by Winfield having a foundation of his own as a player?

DJ: That was part of the appeal. I was a fan of Dave. He was pretty much the first player to start a foundation. I thought it was cool that he would take the time to take care of kids. I thought it was a great idea.

SI: What do you enjoy most about the foundation?

DJ: I like hearing the responses from the families, hearing about how these kids grow up, graduate, go on to college. That's probably the most satisfying part. A lot of them will come back and help the foundation, so it's good to see them as they grow up.

SI: You received a lot of attention for breaking Lou Gehrig's record for most hits by a Yankee. With less fanfare, though, you broke Luis Aparicio's record for most hits by a shortstop. How important was that to you?

DJ: I didn't even know about that record until two days before. We were in Seattle. A reporter asked me about it. I said, 'What are you talking about?' I had no idea. No idea whatsoever. I was unaware of it. But it's hard to believe, when you think about it.

SI: What advice would you give a player new to New York about how to succeed in New York?

DJ: I'd tell them first, it's the same game, I don't care where you are playing, Minnesota, Kansas City or New York, it's the same game. There are more questions after games. I would say don't worry about what's written about you. There's going to be good, there's going to be bad.

Make sure you take time for yourself. The number one priority is playing baseball. There are so many people in New York trying to get you to do this and get you to do that, which is fine, but you have to take care of yourself.

The biggest thing is don't be sensitive. You can't be sensitive, because you're going to get criticized. I don't care who you are, you're going to get criticized.

I always take criticism as a challenge. It's the way I've always looked at it. [When] somebody criticizes you, you have to realize it's their opinion. That doesn't mean it's true. They're entitled to their opinion. You may not like it. I may not like a lot of people's opinions, but they're entitled to their own opinions. So I take it as a challenge.

SI: How do you deal with the media?

DJ: You have to be accountable, whether you have a good game or a bad game, whether you like somebody or you don't, whether you think they are fair or unfair. I understand they have a job to do, and I have a job to do. I understand that's a responsibility you have.

I think you learn how you can't generalize everybody. You learn how some people work... You're not going to trick me into saying anything, saying something stupid or just agreeing with what you're saying. There are lot of people that try to trick you that way.

SI:Curt Schilling said that he remembers the way you nodded at one other before your first at-bat in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Do you remember that?

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DJ: I remember. It was fun. I always look at it as it's fun. Schilling was as big a big game pitcher as there was. There were others, but you can't say there was anybody bigger than him since I was playing. So Game 7 of the World Series and you're facing the best? It's fun.

You're playing a game, whether it's Little League or Game 7 of the Word Series. It's impossible to do well unless you're having a good time. People talk about pressure. Yeah, there's pressure. But I just look at it as fun.

SI: The day of the spring training press conference in which Alex Rodriguez admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs for three years, you spoke out on behalf of the clean players. David Cone said you took a leadership position and sounded like a player rep. Why did you speak up then?

DJ: The whole thing was, everybody tried to make it sound like that whole era was like it was the Steroid Era, that everybody did it. And I didn't agree with that. So, one, it was annoying. And I felt like it had to be said. Because people were saying, 'Oh, everybody was doing steroids.' No, that's not true. Look at how many people were caught. What, a hundred and something people? So there were a lot of people that didn't do it. So that was irritating.

SI: You played when steroids were easily obtained and used, there was no testing for them and they provided an edge for players. So why wouldn't you use them?

DJ: I'm not trying to sound like anything, but my dad was a drug and alcohol abuse [counselor], so I was pretty well educated about it. Growing up, I was pretty well educated about it. Regardless of what drug it is, alcohol or whatever, my sister and I were always taught about the risks of doing those kinds of things. So my whole thing was that I would never want to disappoint my family. The temptation just wasn't there, you know what I mean? It never crossed my mind.

Then they talk about, 'Oh, everybody knew in clubhouses. Everybody knew this guy was doing this...' Think about it. The position I'm in on our team... If somebody is doing something on our team, who is the last person they would talk to about it? It would probably be me, right? You know what I mean? So I would be the last one. It wasn't like it was an open conversation in clubhouses about what was going on. I never felt that urge to do it because of how I was brought up. And I'm not trying to sound better than anybody else, it's just that growing up with a drug and alcohol counselor . . .

SI: You have a great relationship with Yogi Berra, who has 10 world championship rings. What has it been like getting to know Yogi?

DJ: I always appreciated the ex-players. Being a Yankee, you get spoiled. Old-Timers Day, all these guys coming back, spring training, being around them, you get a chance to get to know them. So I always think you learn a lot by listening. A lot of times young guys come up and know everything and they want to talk all the time, but you can learn a lot by watching and listening. So I like to listen to the old players talk to each other and tell stories.

Yogi started teasing me maybe after we won our third one [in 1999]. We won back-to-back and he said, 'You've got three more to go to catch me: five in a row.'

You can't catch Yogi now. They went straight to the World Series then. I get on him all the time. 'Yogi, it doesn't count. You went straight to the World Series.' He says, 'Oh, get out of here.' Yogi's fun. A lot of guys don't think they can't learn from these guys. You can learn a lot. Even if you learn one thing it's going to benefit you.

SI: Do you have any plans for when you are done playing?

DJ: I would like to own a team. I would like to be able to call the shots, be able to make some decisions. You're still a part of a team. You're still competing. I like to compete. I'm competitive by nature. I think it would be fun. Once again, I'm not going to do anything unless it's fun. I think it would be fun. [But] that's down the road.

SI: What about managing or coaching?

DJ: Nooo. Because I'd like to have a family one day. And I'd like to be around [them]. Coaching, you're right back to the same travel [as a player].

SI: What do you like best about baseball?

DJ: I just like the game. I like competing. It's hard to put into words, because it's all I ever wanted to do. I only wanted to play baseball. I only wanted to play shortstop. I only wanted to play for the Yankees. My whole life. It wasn't like I wanted to play for another team and ended up in New York. It wasn't like I wanted to play another position and ended up at short. This has always been the dream of mine: to play shortstop for the New York Yankees. And I get a chance to do it.