The ongoing quest to know ‘the real’ Derek Jeter

Every two years or so, a glossy men’s magazine will profile Derek Jeter. Like death, taxes, and Adam Sandler comedies with melodramatic courtroom climaxes, it’s inevitable.

I surmise the goal of these features is get to know the real Derek Jeter, misguided as that notion may be. As anyone who’s followed the shortstop’s career can attest, Jeter enjoys sharing intimate details about himself about as much as he likes sliding shoulder-first into Ken Huckaby‘s shin guard.

The captain’s not going to start running his mouth A-Rod style just because some smooth-talking reporter strokes his ego while throwing a few big words his way. Jeter’s a pro on so many levels, and that certainly goes for his interactions with the media.

Because of this, each profile inevitably becomes a rehash of the same stories and themes you’ve heard before. You’ll typically come away from these features with the understanding that Jeter:

a) is a nice guy.

b) is a hard worker.

c) likes his privacy.

GQ profiled the 11-time All-Star for their April 2011 edition, sending a season-ticket-holding Red Sox fan (what?!?) to meet with the Yankees icon over two days in Florida.

The results were more or less what we’ve come to expect from this type of fare, though to the magazine’s credit, they did get Jeter to pose with a Carrot Top-like prop. That was pretty cool.

Here are a few noteworthy nuggets from the piece:

In The Captain, his forthcoming biography of Jeter, Ian O’Connor writes about a small party Jeter hosted. When Jeter’s then flame and one of her girlfriends arrived at his house, Jeter answered the door and politely asked his guests to remove any cell phones or cameras they were carrying and place them on a table, explaining that he wanted to protect his privacy.

First off, how did Ian O’Connor get this information? If I were him, I’d be be installing new security equipment at my house … Jeter may be Out For Justice, Seagal-style. That’s right Ian, we’re talking compound wrist fractures and a possible screwdriver wound to the esophagus.

Can you imagine attending a dinner party and being asked to remove all electronic devices like you’re going through security at LAX? In case it hasn’t been made exceedingly clear by this point, Derek Jeter is not like you.

Here’s another one …

By all accounts, when Jeter has felt at risk of being exposed, he’s taken swift steps. About ten years ago, a freelancer working on a piece for The New York Times was in the Yankees locker room after batting practice. Jeter and some other players were joking around—”it was something totally innocuous,” the reporter says—when Jeter realized there was a tape recorder in the room. Later that night, the reporter was buttonholed by a Yankees PR staffer and one of the team’s security guards. When the reporter tried to apologize to Jeter for any misunderstanding, he says, Jeter refused to acknowledge that anything had happened in the first place.

The “I don’t even know what you’re talking about” gag! Glad to see this still has a place in 21st century discourse. And while we’re here, what do you think Jeter and his teammates were being so “innocuous” about? I got 20 bucks saying they were ragging on Giambi for a particularly nasty fart. Any takers?

Moving on …

Jeter didn’t watch (Andy) Pettitte’s (retirement) press conference—he was doing his weekday-morning workout—and he ignored my efforts to get him to talk about the implications for his own career. “It’s something you won’t even realize until you get to spring training,” he said when I asked him whether Pettitte’s decision made him think about his own future. “But the thing about Andy is, he left for three years to play in Houston. You don’t want to say you’re used to him not being there, but at least you have something to compare it to. There was a while there where he was gone.”

There was something about that quote that makes me wonder if Jeter harbors any resentment toward Pettitte for his three-year sabbatical in Houston. We know Jeter is a loyalty guy that keeps a tight circle. Maybe I’m just reading into that the wrong way, but there was an edge to that answer. I mean, could you imagine Jeter using the same icy tone a year from now when Posada goes off into the sunset?

And one more …

Before I left for the airport, I asked Jeter what he had planned for the rest of the day. “I’m probably going to go home and watch a movie,” he said, grinning. “I’m going to watch The Roommate. It’s a new one. Just came out today. Go check it out.” It was a rare acknowledgment of his private life—his girlfriend, Minka Kelly, is one of the movie’s stars. We exchanged some more pleasantries, and then, as he was climbing into his car, he shouted over one last time: “Remember: The Roommate. Seriously. Check it out. It’s worth it.”

Talented, handsome, hard-working … and a sense of humor! That Derek Jeter is the whole package.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at dhanzus@gmail.co[email protected] Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

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