It’s Derek Jeter’s last season. This depresses me on many levels. Makes me feel old, yada yada yada, but mostly, it brings me back to his rookie season in 1996 (ninth grade) and the many nights I stayed up late into the night with my clock radio pressed to my ear so I could hear the end of the Yankees’ extra-inning games. So, in honor of his last season, I’m posting an old essay I wrote about love and baseball. It’s called “Me and My Mattingly.”
The first time I fell in love, I was seven years old. The Yankees were not a great team back then, despite the impressive talent on their roster: Dave Winfield. Rickey Henderson. Don Mattingly.
It was Mattingly who first caught my eye. Tall and pinstriped with a stately sheriff’s moustache, Don was a real looker. His dimpled chin, deeply set eyes and near-constant stubble—this was a rugged, adorable hunk.
Most importantly, like me—and like so many great first basemen—he was left-handed. Left-handed! We had so much in common: I ate with my left hand. So did Don! I threw a ball with my left hand. So did Don! At night, I curled my teddy bear into the crook of my left arm. And so did Don! He and I were obviously a match made in heaven. The only real problem was that we’d never actually met.