I grew up right across the street from the Jeter family on Cumberland. When he first started playing with the Yankees, his parents would come to our house to watch him on TV, because we had a satellite dish that showed the Yankee games when they didn't air locally.
Derek and Sharlee went to my school, St. Augustine's. Derek was older than me, but Sharlee was just in the grade ahead of me. Sometimes we played together after school with Abloc Maikoski and Kaiti Marie.
Derek came back one year to speak at our school. No one believed that he knew me. One little snot head (there's always one in every class), raised his hand, then pointed at me and said, "Do you really know her?"
I was mortified, but Derek smiled at me and replied, "I've known her since she was this high," and he pointed to his knee.
I have never swooned like I swooned that day.
And every time Derek would come back home, my brother and I would go over to his house and ask shyly for an autograph. Sometimes we brought our awestruck friends.
Derek and his parents were not only welcoming, but they would invite us inside and chat with us as Derek signed baseballs, magazines and tee shirts for all of us.
My biggest memories of the Jeters on Cumberland Street were simple ones: his parents, Charles and Dottie, taking walks every evening and holding hands. Derek playing basketball in his driveway with his dad. Sharlee just over the fence, playing softball on the Kalamazoo Central fields, which at that time was our second home and playground.
Derek is an extraordinary athlete and role model. His career has gone beyond anything anyone could have ever imagined.
But the best part about the Jeter family, to me, will always be how simply normal they were, and that they raised two really amazing kids with kind hearts.
Godspeed, Derek! What a joy it was to be a witness to your talent.