Mailbag: Derek Jeter

Introducing Tribune Mailbag, a new series featuring athletes and fans in conversation. Long before I founded The Players’ Tribune, when it was just a seed of an idea, I knew I wanted to create a platform that highlighted the voice of the athlete. But just as important to me was to create a channel for fans to interact directly with athletes. I’ll be kicking off the first Mailbag. But after this one, I want to get out of the way and invite other athletes, across various sports, to join in future conversations with their fans.

I retired last year after spending more than 30 years in education. Having an open schedule took a lot of getting used to, but I’ve discovered a lot of new interests I never had time for while I was working. What have you learned so far from retirement? -Anne, Virginia

First of all, congratulations.

As far as what I’ve learned from retirement, a lot of it so far is how many little things I missed out on while playing. Anything summer-related, I probably missed it. A barbecue. A trip to the beach. Or even just a lazy Saturday afternoon. It sounds simple, but rediscovering experiences like that has been fun.

2Pac or Biggie? -J.T., San Diego, CA

Biggie. Come on. I’m still New York.

Favorite breakfast cereal? -Victor, Albany, NY

Frosted Flakes, next question.

What sort of student were you growing up? -Max, Edina, MN

I’ll give you the scouting report. Strengths: Excels at math. Shows an interest in it, and is good at it. Major weakness: public speaking. The kid is scared to death of talking to large groups. Can’t do an oral report to save his life. He’ll sweat for two weeks before one.

What superpower would you want? -Evan, New York City

That’s a tough one. Flying would be cool. Could have come in handy at shortstop. But I’ve gotta go with invisibility.

So now that you’re past your playing days, what would your video game rating be if you suited up right now? -Kevin, Pittsburgh

I would be terrible.

As a follow up, what are your favorite video games?

I keep it old school. Pac Man. Donkey Kong. Frogger. Strictly classics.

It seems like it’s important for athletes to keep that competitive fire going for a number of years in order to be really great. Throughout your career did you have any rivals and if so, who were they? -Thomas, Minneapolis

As a hitter, it’s ultimately the aces in your division that become your true rivals. Those are the guys you see again and again, and they’re the guys you have to go through to make the playoffs. For me, two names stand out: Pedro. Halladay.

I understand that this is kind of a polarizing topic, but do you like cilantro? -Adam, Austin, TX

Ah … no.

Which current players do you most enjoy watching? -Angie, St. Louis, MO

There are so many. But right now the players who stand out to me are McCutchen, Harper and Trout. Those guys are special.

What are your thoughts on the Meek Mill/Drake beef? -Gabriel, Houston

I have no thoughts on it.

What’s the best locker room prank you ever pulled? -Bryan, Long Island, NY

In 2002 when Marcus Thames got called up, we decided to prank him by faking a security sweep. It was normal for dogs to come through the locker room as a security measure, so one day we hid some sticks in his bag and when they brought the dogs over, the dogs immediately started barking, growling and doing their thing next to Marcus’ bag. Security was in on it the whole time. Torre was in on it and everything. Marcus started panicking — you know, telling them, “It’s not mine! It’s not mine!” Really sweating. And then they took him outside … and we were all there waiting for him. We definitely got him — we all felt a little bad afterward.

What’s your favorite TV show or movie? -Jordan, New Jersey

I’ve got 23 years of TV to catch up on. Right now I’m finishing House of Cards. I’m learning the meaning of binge-watching.

Favorite ballpark to play in? –Suzan, Los Angeles

After New York? Anaheim. You’ve got that California weather. Great baseball conditions. And then half the stadium is Yankee fans.

Everyone knows that hitting 100 mph fastballs and throwing a perfect game is hard, but what’s the toughest part about baseball that people don’t really know? –Stu, Atlanta, GA

The schedule. I think people know, but they don’t know. The number of games, the travel, the times you get in and out of hotels — your schedule’s just out of whack. Landing in some city at 4:30, 5:00 in the morning, the sun’s coming up … and then playing that day. And there’s really no offseason anymore: Maybe three-to-four weeks off. Then it’s right back. So I was really on one long schedule, on a loop, for 20 years. It’s tough. And don’t get me wrong — I loved it. But you don’t quite realize how grueling it is until you’re not doing it anymore.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things are you taking with you? -Michelle, Toronto

Food. Water. And … a boat. Get me off that island.

After making the leap, what advice would you have for people going into retirement? -Eva, Syracuse, NY

Don’t be afraid of it. It feels good.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this is Derek Jeter. It’s interesting that you managed to stay mostly private throughout your career even as social media became more popular. I like that it connects athletes with fans, but there’s also a bunch of cases where it’s gone bad. Overall, has the rise of social media been a good thing for athletes? –Alex, Chicago

It’s definitely complicated. I haven’t been active on social media, but I actually just got a Twitter. Check it out.