I bleed Yankee blue. I’m a die hard Yankees fan, so naturally I have an allegiance toward the players in my hometown: The Bronx Bombers. With that, it may come as no surprise that when I reflect on our national pastime, and those rare players who have transcended the sport, I often think of Derek Jeter.

To be a Yankee

I think about the way Jeter carries himself on and off the field. He’s a role model to my children—probably yours, too. I think about the way he understands what it means to be a Yankee: The responsibility to be better than the average ballplayer—on and off the field. Why, you ask? Well the answer is simple: He wears the pinstripes; he has to be better. And that’s why we love him. He’s been loyal to us, and we’re loyal to him. (It doesn’t hurt that he’s racked up 5 golden-gloves, a career batting average of .313, 255 homeruns and 3304 hits).

But it’s not just Yanks fans that love him. Dare I say, that even if you live in Boston, there is something rewarding about watching our Captain do his thing. While he may not wear red or have a big “B” on his cap, he still represents an image of dedication and loyalty to the game and to his team. In a league where being a journeyman is commonplace, he’s played 18 hard years—2585 games—for one team. He constantly delivers class and sportsmanship, and if you ask some, he’s pretty darn good looking, too. Damnit. It must be hard to be so perfect—and people don’t typically like perfect—but Jeets pulls it off! But again… there’s that “appeal” thing. He’s sucked us in.

"Yankees fans are loyal to Jeter, because he’s been loyal to us. It’s not just his greatness. He’s been with us since the beginning, and we know he’ll be there till the end."

A new chapter in a long legacy

When the Yankees moved across the street to the new Yankee Stadium, a changing of the guard took place. What once was known as “The House That Ruth Built” became “The House that Jeter Built.” As you enter the stadium, amidst the smell of hot dogs and draught beer, this evolution becomes especially clear as you look out over a sea of navy blue pinstripes and they’re virtually all wearing Jeter’s iconic #2. It’s the first number to get picked by little leaguers for their jerseys, and it’s a number that was destined for Jeter’s greatness. We’ve watched him win the Rookie of the Year award, MVPs, World Championships and one day we will watch as that “#2” banner will hang proudly from Yankee Stadium’s rafters amongst the likes of other “low number” predecessors: Babe Ruth’s “3,” Lou Gehrig’s “4,” Joe DiMaggio’s “5” and Micky Mantle’s “7” to name just a few.

Why we’re loyal to Jeter

Yankees fans are loyal to Jeter, because he’s been loyal to us. It’s not just his greatness. He’s been with us since the beginning, and we know he’ll be there till the end. He’s sacrificed his body in play after dazzling play. He’s been the glue that has bound our team together for 18 seasons worth of egos, big money contracts and drama that can plague athletes playing on the biggest stage in the world. And during a time that will be reflected upon by many as the “steroid era,” there won’t be any asterisks next to his name in baseball history. Honesty. Integrity.

Despite the absence of Jeet so far in 2013, it’s clear the man knows how important his presence is. If he’s not on the field, he’s leading in other ways: Talking to teammates, mentoring, guiding. He’s a true leader—a captain in every sense of the word. As we move forward together as fans of Yankees—fans of baseball in general—we should cherish every at bat, every tip of the cap, because he’s rewarded us so much. Not because he has to, but because he wants to.