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SI names Derek Jeter 2009 Sportsman of the Year

December 1, 2009

For the first time in its illustrious history, a Yankee has won the prestigious Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award since its inception in 1954.

Derek Jeter is the gold standard in baseball.

Jeter becomes the first singular baseball player — the Red Sox team won it in 2004 and Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa won it in 1998 — since Cal Ripken Jr. was awarded it in 1995.

Jeter had a renaissance year, both in the field and at the plate. For the season, he batted .334 with 18 HRs, 66 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. He posted a .406 on base percentage and racked up 212 hits. With those 212 hits, he passed Luis Aparicio for most hits by a shortstop and Lou Gehrig for most hits as a Yankee. He finished third in the AL MVP race, batted .344 this postseason, which included a .407 batting average in the World Series, and led the Yankees to their 27th championship.

Jeter will add this prestigious award to the laundry list of awards he took home this season. He won the Silver Slugger Award, Gold Glove, Hank Aaron Award for best offensive player and the Roberto Clemente award for his philanthropic endeavors.

SI group editor, Terry McDonell offered this explanation on why they chose Jeter as its Sportsman of the Year. “Derek Jeter has always presented himself with class,” said Terry McDonell, Sports Illustrated Group Editor. “He does numerous good works for the community with his Turn 2 Foundation, which is one of the most efficient, effective foundations of its kind; and he’s extremely generous with not just his money but with his time, which in many cases is more valuable. He also had another signature year on the field.”

Here’s an excerpt from an interview Jeter did with SI’s Tom Verducci on winning the award:

SI:You grew up as a big fan ofDave Winfield. Was your Turn 2 Foundation inspired by Winfield having a foundation of his own as a player?

DJ:That was part of the appeal. I was a fan of Dave. He was pretty much the first player to start a foundation. I thought it was cool that he would take the time to take care of kids. I thought it was a great idea.

SI:What do you enjoy most about the foundation?

DJ:I like hearing the responses from the families, hearing about how these kids grow up, graduate, go on to college. That’s probably the most satisfying part. A lot of them will come back and help the foundation, so it’s good to see them as they grow up.

SI:You received a lot of attention for breaking Lou Gehrig‘s record for most hits by a Yankee. With less fanfare, though, you broke Luis Aparicio‘s record for most hits by a shortstop. How important was that to you?

DJ:I didn’t even know about that record until two days before. We were in Seattle. A reporter asked me about it. I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ I had no idea. No idea whatsoever. I was unaware of it. But it’s hard to believe, when you think about it.

SI:What advice would you give a player new to New York about how to succeed in New York?

DJ:I’d tell them first, it’s the same game, I don’t care where you are playing, Minnesota, Kansas City or New York, it’s the same game. There are more questions after games. I would say don’t worry about what’s written about you. There’s going to be good, there’s going to be bad.

Make sure you take time for yourself. The number one priority is playing baseball. There are so many people in New York trying to get you to do this and get you to do that, which is fine, but you have to take care of yourself.

The biggest thing is don’t be sensitive. You can’t be sensitive, because you’re going to get criticized. I don’t care who you are, you’re going to get criticized.

I always take criticism as a challenge. It’s the way I’ve always looked at it. [When] somebody criticizes you, you have to realize it’s their opinion. That doesn’t mean it’s true. They’re entitled to their opinion. You may not like it. I may not like a lot of people’s opinions, but they’re entitled to their own opinions. So I take it as a challenge.

SI:How do you deal with the media?

DJ:You have to be accountable, whether you have a good game or a bad game, whether you like somebody or you don’t, whether you think they are fair or unfair. I understand they have a job to do, and I have a job to do. I understand that’s a responsibility you have.

I think you learn how you can’t generalize everybody. You learn how some people work… You’re not going to trick me into saying anything, saying something stupid or just agreeing with what you’re saying. There are lot of people that try to trick you that way.

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