Derek Jeter jogs off the field towards the Yankees dugout. He approaches the first base line then slows to a stop.
The white stripe is the same as ever. A smooth even barrier, from fair territory to foul, from the field to the bench, from the game to everything else. He looks up at the dugout.
He sees his teammates, his manager and coaches. Joe Girardi is watching him as ever, steely-eyed. Betances, Tanaka, Gardner, the next generation of Yankees leaders. A glance further down the dugout surprises him. Mariano is there, fishing pole in hand, a warm smile on his face. Jorge and Andy are laughing next to him.
His family sits just above the dugout, his parents standing, their pride visible. His sister and nephew watching, the young boy tipping his cap in imitation of his uncle.
Derek glances back behind him, at the green field he has called home for 20 years. Odd, he thinks. He can almost see the steel handrail that he gashed his face on in 2004. The chunks of grass spit up from his cleats as he relayed a throw home to get Timo Perez.
A ball dropping in the right field stands as the clock hits midnight on November 1st. Derek’s hand can’t help but ball up in a fist for just a moment.
Kelly Johnson tipping his cap as Jeter rounded first, the Stadium rocking as his 3000th hit landed in the left-center field stands.
Jeremy Giambi’s cleats mere centimeters from the plate as Jorge’s glove slides up his calf, and Derek remembers spinning and tumbling in foul territory.
He sees the piles of celebrating pinstripes in ’96, ’98, ’99, ’00 and ’09. Fistbumps and backslaps from Paulie and Bernie, Alfonso and Tino.
He sees jump throws made, double plays turned, and retreating catches snared in short left field.
The stadium has frozen around him. Fans motionless mid-clap, cameras raised.
For just a moment, Derek can swear he can see some figures in left-center-field. Not many, a select few. All in pinstripes.
The well-known grin slips on to Derek’s face for just a moment, then he turns, and steps over the line.