Derek Jeter's parents, Sanderson and Dorothy Jeter, witnessed his World Series wins
Since his first MLB game, Derek Jeter had two of his biggest cheerleaders in the stands for major career moments: his parents, Sanderson and Dorothy Jeter.
Dorothy and Sanderson met in 1972 while serving in the United States Army before dating and marrying soon afterward. The couple welcomed Derek in 1974 and their daughter, Sharlee, in 1979.
The proud parents were critical in supporting Derek in his baseball career. From taking him to little league practices, to helping him create traditions he used throughout his career and watching him win the World Series, Sanderson and Dorothy were there to support him.
“I always idolized my dad, so I loved baseball too ... and I always rooted for the Yankees,” Derek told Sports Illustrated in 2004. “Once or twice a year, when the Yankees came to Detroit, we would make the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Tiger Stadium. On one of those trips, my father recalled that I promised him that I would play in that ballpark someday.”
Here is everything to know about Derek Jeter's parents, Sanderson and Dorothy Jeter.
They met while serving in the U.S. Army
In 1972, Dorothy and Sanderson met while serving in the United States Army when stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, The pair began a romantic relationship and married. After the Army, Dorothy pursued a career as an accountant while Sanderson was a substance abuse counselor.
On June 26, 1974, Derek was born in New Jersey, where he spent his early childhood. When he was 4, the family moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan, so Sanderson could get his Ph.D. in psychology from Western Michigan University. This town was the place where Derek began his baseball career.
Derek's father played baseball
While attending Fisk University, Sanderson played shortstop for the collegiate team. But he wasn’t the only person in the family who played the sport; Derek's younger sister, Sharlee, was a softball player in school and played shortstop as well. The family conditioned and worked on their techniques together.
“She was part of a ritual that Don Zomer, Derek's baseball coach at Central, witnessed on nightly walks, finding the entire Jeter family after practice, working on technique,'' the Westchester Journal News reported in 1999. "Some people go to the movies for fun,” Sharlee added. “We went to the field. It was part of being close.”
They work for his foundation
In 1996, Derek founded the Turn 2 Foundation with a goal to prevent substance abuse among teens and young adults and promote healthy lifestyles. The nonprofit organization also aims to reward academic achievements and provide leadership development.
Sharlee is the president of the foundation, while Sanderson is the vice chairman and Dorothy is the board treasurer. They have partnerships and locations in West Michigan, New York City and Tampa. Since its inception, Turn 2 Foundation has given over $30 million to fund its programs and financially support organizations.
Derek credits his work ethic to his upbringing
Derek compared his upbringing and family life to a family sitcom, leading him to develop a positive work ethic — which extended into his baseball career. Growing up, for example, he and his sister were not allowed to use the word “can’t.”
Before each school year, Derek and Sharlee required their kids to sign a contract concerning their respect, duties and work. They committed to studying and keeping up a certain grade point average. The kids also had specific curfews and refrained from doing drugs or alcohol.
Derek also credits his parents for lack of negative media
Over the span of his professional baseball career, Derek was able to avoid negative attention the spotlight can put on people. He chose to always behave in a positive manner because of his upbringing.
“I always have tried to treat people with respect, the way I want to be treated,” Derek said on the Today show. “I’ve always been very cautious with what I do. You know, that started at a young age, I’ve always had the approach or the mentality that I never wanted to embarrass my parents.”
He explained that it “sounds odd, saying it now at 40 years old,” but when he was younger he “just never wanted to embarrass them, and I guess that fear is still there.”
They instilled a baseball tradition in Derek
At age 4, Derek joined a T-ball team in Kalamazoo.
“They played one game a week, and from the first day, Derek loved putting the uniform on,” Dorothy told MLB.com. “During his childhood and even when he was in high school, he would put his uniform on at home before the season began to make sure that everything looked good. He wanted to make sure everything was perfect before he went out to the field.”
Charles added that the “tradition of trying the uniform on started during the first year Derek played ball.”
The ritual began one night before a parade his team was scheduled to walk in. Derek was excited to march and decided to try on his uniform the early. His father recalled him proudly strutting down the street.
They attended his first MLB game in 1995
On May 29, 1995, Derek made his MLB debut as No. 2 for the New York Yankees. His parents were present at the game against the Seattle Mariners. Although he went hitless with five at bats, Sanderson and Dorothy were proud their son made it to the big leagues.
“Hearing Derek’s name announced prior to his first at-bat is something I will never forget,” Sanderson told MLB.com. “As I sat in the seats that night, I reflected on watching him play in Little League. I thought back on his first year of T-ball and how proud he was to march in that parade."
Derek's dad continued: "I could still picture him strutting down the street and talking about how he someday wanted to be the shortstop for the New York Yankees. It was an emotional night, and it’s still the proudest moment I’ve ever had.”
Sanderson and Dorothy taught him about race at a young age
Because Derek is the son of a White mother and a Black father, his parents discussed race with him at a young age. “Interracial marriage was not as common as it may be nowadays," Derek told ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.
“Growing up, every time you went somewhere with just one of your parents, people would look at you and they’d wonder who’s this person you’re with,” he added (via NJ.com). “When you went out to eat or to a store with both parents, you really got some uncomfortable looks.”
Derek added that his parents were “very direct” with him concerning race in society. They wanted to make sure that he would “surround [himself] with people of all nationalities, all colors and don’t let anyone talk down to you because of your race” and to always “stick up for yourself.”
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