8/26/2014 7:15 P.M. ET
Jeter: 'I've always told people I'm from Michigan'
By Matt Slovin / MLB.com
DETROIT -- On a fall Michigan afternoon in 1991, Derek Jeter stood wide-eyed amongst a crowd of greater than 100,000.
In Ann Arbor, at the Big House, Jeter realized there was somewhere else he could envision himself besides the infield dirt at the corner of East 161st and River Avenue in the Bronx. Perhaps at one of the parties he recalls visiting on that recruiting trip to the University of Michigan, he pictured himself as a Michigan Man -- and loved what he saw.
Boyhood dreams are limitless, though, and few have just one. Jeter, then 17, was no different. We all know which iteration of his dream he chose when the Yankees selected him with their sixth pick in the 1992 First-Year Player Draft.
Jeter is in Detroit this week to play his final regular-season series in his home state. Though the ballpark Jeter grew up visiting, like the one he grew up dreaming of playing in in New York, has been demolished within the past few years, visits to Detroit still have special meaning for him.
"I've always enjoyed coming here," Jeter said before Tuesday's game. "It brings back memories of … Tiger Stadium."
Jeter's ties to Michigan didn't end when he signed his pro contract with New York, and he never stopped considering himself a Wolverine. Though he didn't head to Ann Arbor to play for then-Michigan coach Bill Freehan as the plan had called for, he did enroll in the fall of 1992 and took a semester's worth of classes before turning his attention fully to his budding baseball career.
"You weigh pros and cons," Jeter said Tuesday of the decision he had to make. "You weigh the opportunity. … I wanted to get my career underway. This is the team that I wanted to play for. I think I made the right decision."
Jeter grew up in Kalamazoo, Mich., slightly over two hours due west of Detroit. Asked if he considers himself a Michigander, Jeter responded, "Of course."
"People ask where I'm from. I was born in New Jersey but I grew up in Michigan," Jeter said. "I've always told people I'm from Michigan."
The shortstop holds his home in such high regard that his least favorite memory of it didn't even occur in Michigan territory. Shockingly, it isn't either of New York's two American League Division Series losses to the Tigers since 2006.
Instead, it came in 1995, when he barely missed his first chance of playing in Detroit. Jeter was abruptly demoted to Triple-A right before the Yankees departed on the trip.
"There was a lot of family and friends that had to change their plans," Jeter said.
His best memory of baseball in Detroit might still be ahead of him. It could come before Wednesday's game, when he's honored in a pregame ceremony -- likely the first time Tigers fans will treat Jeter like one of their own.
"Sometimes, when I come here, I'm a sellout or I should be playing for the Tigers," Jeter said of Detroit fans' reaction to him over the years. "It wasn't my choice. I was drafted by the Yankees.
"[But] they have a respect, because this is where I grew up."
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.