Siena College is honored to have the opportunity to recognize Mr. Derek Jeter, an outstanding professional baseball player and leader within Major League Baseball (MLB).
Derek Sanderson Jeter was born on June 26, 1974, in Pequannock, N.J. After spending the early years of his life growing up less than 30 miles away from Yankee Stadium, Derek moved with his family to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he began playing T-ball at the age of 5. Thanks to the influence of his grandmother, he grew up a Yankees fan and idolized outfielder, Dave Winfield. Derek would regularly return to New Jersey during the summer to visit his grandparents and attend Yankees games.
His early days on the diamond in Kalamazoo were spent honing his skills in the Eastwood, Oakwood and Westwood Little Leagues. When he started playing high school ball in 1989, his talents helped him earn a spot on the Kalamazoo Central varsity team as a freshman. Derek also spent three years playing varsity basketball, earning “Honorable Mention All-State.”
After batting .557 with seven homers as a junior, Derek hit .508 (30-for-59) with four home runs, 23 RBIs, 21 walks and only one strikeout in 23 games his senior year. He got on base 63.7 percent of the time and tallied an impressive .831 slugging percentage. Derek collected several awards at season's end, including the Kalamazoo Area B'nai B'rith Award for Scholar Athlete, the 1992 High School Player of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association, the 1992 Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year and USA Today's High School Player of the Year.
That spring, the Yankees drafted Derek with the sixth overall pick in the June 1992 MLB First-Year Player Draft. He was the first high school player chosen that year and became the third shortstop selected in Yankees history with a first-round pick. Derek also received a scholarship to play Baseball at the University of Michigan, attending in 1992 following his first summer of Minor League Baseball.
In 1993, his first full year of professional baseball, Derek was voted the Most Outstanding Major League Prospect by South Atlantic League managers after hitting .295 with five home runs, 71 RBIs and 18 stolen bases at Class A Greensboro. He was named to the All-Star team after finishing second in the league in triples (11), third in hits (152) and 11th in batting average. Derek was also voted by Baseball America the South Atlantic League's Best Defensive Shortstop, Most Exciting Player and Best Infield Arm. Derek continued to improve, and in 1994, he was named the Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America, The Sporting News, USA Today Baseball Weekly and Topps/NAPBL, after hitting .344 with five home runs, 68 RBIs and 50 stolen bases combined at Triple-A Columbus, Double-A Albany, NY and Class A Tampa. He was also named the Most Valuable Player of the Florida State League.
On May 29, 1995, Derek made his MLB debut in Seattle starting at shortstop alongside All-Star infielders, Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs. The following day, Derek collected his first two Major League hits and scored his first career run. In 1996, the Yankees made Derek the first Opening Day rookie shortstop since Tom Tresh in 1962. Derek finished his rookie season with a .314 average, 10 home runs, 78 RBIs and 14 steals, and winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award. In October of that memorable year, Derek had his first taste of post-season play, batting .361 to help lead the Yankees to their first World Series title since 1978.
Throughout his MLB career, Derek has been awarded numerous individual accolades and other recognition, indicative of his professional baseball excellence, sportsmanship, and leadership: 12 time All-Star Team member; MVP of both the All-Star Game and the World Series (2000), the only time a player has earned MVP honors at the All-Star Game and World Series in the same season; 5 time Gold Glove Award recipient for best defensive Shortstop; 4 time Silver Slugger Award recipient for best offensive Shortstop; named “Captain” of the New York Yankees in 2003, becoming only the 11th player named “Captain” in franchise history; member of Team USA’s 2006 World Baseball Classic team; “Captain” of Team USA's 2009 World Baseball Classic team; The Hank Aaron Award recipient (2009) as the best hitter in the American League; The Roberto Clemente Award recipient (2009) for his commitment to service in the community; and Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year Award (2009), surpassing athletes from across the sporting world. Of singular individual importance, in 2011 Derek became the 23rd member and first Yankee of the 3,000-hits club. However, as Baseball is a team sport, most important to his fans has been the 5 World Series Championships of the Yankees since his debut in 1995, and in particular, his most impressive post-season play, contributing so significantly to his team’s status as “The Best in Baseball.”
Beyond the diamond, Derek has established the Turn 2 Foundation to promote healthy lifestyles among youth. The Foundation was created with the goal of motivating young people to "turn to" healthy lifestyles and "turn away" from drugs and alcohol. Turn 2, since its founding during his MLB rookie season, has awarded more than $16 million in grants to youth programs in West Michigan, New York City and the Tampa - St. Petersburg area.
In recognition of his lifetime of achievement as an outstanding athlete, sportsman, and leader in Baseball, as well as his dedication to assist others through his philanthropy, Siena College awards Mr. Derek Jeter, the honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters.