Retired Yankees great Derek Jeter and his family were in the Capital Region on Tuesday. The future Hall of Famer’s Turn 2 Foundation gathered with 100 high school students at Siena College.
More than two decades after he played 34 games in the minors here on the way to the Yankees pantheon, Derek Jeter strolled back in town.
"It's been a while," he said.
Still trim and youthful at 41, the Yankees’ all-time hit leader and five-time champion had a stormy summer afternoon buzzing on Siena’s tidy campus. He answered questions about his foundation and a few about baseball before heading outside to face a line of autograph seekers with a thousand-watt smile.
First, though, Jeter wanted to talk about Turn 2’s 2015 Social Change Project.
"We brought them here to Albany this year, they had an opportunity to visit the Food Bank, and they're gonna visit Siena College, obviously, the capitol, and also the New York State Museum, so it's something we're extremely proud of as a foundation," Jeter said.
Jeter established his Turn 2 foundation in 1996 and has remained active with it, but since retiring last year, the Captain has had more time for the family business. As he said in the waning days of his career, 2015 would be his first summer off.
His parents, a familiar sight at Yankee games over the years, are on the foundation board, and sister Sharlee Jeter is president. All four were in Loudonville on Tuesday to cap a week of community service and seminars for about 100 downstate students: Jeter’s Leaders. Sharlee Jeter:
"Two or three years ago, Derek was honored with the honorary degree, and he's very proud of his doctor title," Sharlee Jeter said. "So we always said we wanted to, after his career, bring all of our kids up here. We have a scholarship with the college and thought it would be great to have them on campus to expose them to Siena, which is an amazing school."
The goal: inspire good choices and citizenship for kids who might not get such guidance at home. Earlier in the week, the students volunteered at Patroon Land Farm in Voorheesville and traveled to spend time with children taking part in the Schenectady Boys and Girls Club’s Camp Lovejoy.
This week specifically was devoted to countering bullying and cyberbullying. Eighteen-year-old Aaron Straker from Brooklyn is one of Jeter’s Leaders.
"Cyberbullying is pretty bad right now, and to think about how I grew up and how social media got really kicked in, and I know that a lot of cyberbullying and bullying has changed how kids grow up now," Straker said.
Inevitably, talk turned the state of the Bronx Bombers, unexpectedly in first place in the dog days. But Jeter mostly sounded like he did during 20 years of postgame press conferences — respectful but rarely expansive. He says he doesn’t watch too many games (he never did) but is happy to see his old pals leading the pennant race.
Is he surprised by on-again off-again friend Alex Rodriguez’s resurgence after a year out of the sport?
"Nothing surprises me."
Has he mentored Didi Gregorious, the man with the impossible job of replacing him at short?
"I've spoken with Didi. He's doing a great job."
Does he want to get back into baseball?
That last one was easy; Jeter has long talked about his desire to own a team one day.
That would be a long way from Heritage Park, the late lamented bandbox nearby that hosted the AA Albany-Colonie Yankees from 1985-1994. Jeter was here for only a matter of weeks that last summer — a highly touted draft pick who would become the face of baseball.
"I mean, I enjoyed my time here. Minor league experiences are some of the experiences that you never forget," Jeter said. "There were a lot of Yankee fans here that always came out to support us. And throughout my playing days, I'd always run into people saying they remembered coming to see the Albany-Colonie Yankees play."
Then, after 18 minutes, Jeter’s stint before the notebooks was over. There were students to meet and foundation work to do.
It was sunny by now, over 80 degrees. Good day for a ballgame. But Derek Jeter was retired, and now, like every summer day for the rest of his life, he could do whatever he wanted.
"Physically, I'm not on a schedule," he said. "I'm not complaining by any stretch of the imagination, but our seasons are very long. You don't have much time. Every single day. Now I'm getting the opportunity to do some things I've never done before. I love it. I recommend retirement to everyone."