With Gossage's help, Jeter inspires kids at clinic
Turn 2 Foundation's New York City event a success
By Adam Spunberg / DerekJeter.com
NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter may be the Yankees' captain, but he certainly doesn't resemble Captain Hook. By using his celebrity to promote the fundamentals of a more virtuous life, he inspires kids to believe in themselves, while embracing the untainted exuberance of childhood.
Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation has been providing free youth clinics in New York, Tampa and Kalamazoo, Mich., for more than a decade, encouraging kids to learn respect, teamwork and other fundamentals, as defined by Jeter's 10 life lessons. The New York program, which wrapped up in Flushing, N.Y., on Saturday, was a sight to behold. Rarely do 115 children listen so attentively to their instructors, but they interacted enthusiastically despite intense heat and a diverse pool of backgrounds. It was all smiles and no objections.
"What we try to do out here is teach the fundamentals of the game the right way for all kids," said Vice President Todd Smith. "We use the game [of baseball] for the purpose of teaching important life lessons off the field as well, and have a lot of fun while we're doing it."
Lillian Wing, a proud parent of two in the program, could not stop raving about the experience.
"The staff is wonderful and attentive to children. Jeter is a great mentor and a great role model," she said.
Donna Bayliff, another enthusiastic parent, provided a similar sentiment, outlining several reasons for why her son, Zachary, enjoys the clinic.
"I like that it's free, it's all about fundamentals and there is not a competitive atmosphere, so nobody feels better or worse," Bayliff said. "Every day he leaves here, he's happy. They made him feel successful because he tried."
When asked about the general mood among the kids, she simply stated: "In this heat, there's not one complaint. Kids only get plugged into quality."
The Turn 2 Foundation made great use of the Al Oerter Recreation Center, just a short distance away from Citi Field, where Jeter's rival Mets make their home. The close proximity may have recruited a lot of Mets fans, but there still seemed to be universal support for Jeter.
"It's not about a Mets fan or a Yankees fan," insisted parent Alex Anderson. "It's about respecting Derek Jeter. What he's doing is commendable. Maybe it will have an impact on other ballplayers to do something. It would be more 'Turn 2' and less 'turn off.'"
If endorsements from parents were not enough, the Turn 2 Foundation received an outpouring of support from Yankees Hall of Famer Goose Gossage. Gossage spoke to the children for 20 minutes, stressing the significance of Jeter's mission as the kids peppered him with questions about his own career, personal life, and anything else that might pop into an eight-year-old's head.
Everyone at the clinic chuckled a bit when one child asked Gossage which team he hit the most home runs against.
"I was a pitcher," Gossage answered, laughing. "I gave up a lot of home runs."
When asked about Jeter, Gossage said, "Jeter is as good a person as he is a player. That's quite a mouthful when you can say that about a player of his caliber. He is my favorite player in the Major Leagues."
Jeter invited Gossage to the camp because their visions are very much aligned -- both appreciate the importance of youth in shaping the future of society, and maybe that starts with treating the world like Neverland.
"The key is to never grow up," Gossage said. "I never forgot my childhood. My memories as a little kid are as good as those in the big leagues. The game keeps you young, from memories. It takes you back to your childhood."
Gossage's words ring especially meaningful on the heels of George Steinbrenner's passing. In these somber days for Yankees fans, Jeter truly is the heroic figure many make him out to be, and for that a number of kids are grateful and fortunate.
Teens discussed promoting social change and healthy lifestyles at the 2011 Jeter's Leaders Leadership Conference. More »
Kids are encouraged and learn the game at the Turn 2 Foundation's 2012 Tampa Baseball Clinic at Port Tampa Community Center. More »