Jeter's off-field legacy lives on with Turn 2

Foundation has raised $27 million over 21 years for disadvantaged youth

Jeter's off-field legacy lives on with Turn 2

NEW YORK -- Twenty-one years ago, almost to the day, Derek Jeter etched the first few letters of his name into Yankees lore with a long fly ball to right. The ball was hit far, but not far enough. That is, until 12-year-old fan Jeffrey Maier pulled it over the right field wall at Yankee Stadium, giving New York a win in Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series and Jeter his first signature postseason moment.

Around that time in 1996, Jeter co-founded, with his father Sanderson, the Turn 2 Foundation. The goal then, Jeter says, was to positively influence just a few young people, to steer them away from drugs and alcohol, to make small differences where he could.

"We had a small dinner in Kalamazoo [Mich.], and we raised $20,000-$30,000," Jeter said. "We were ecstatic. We had visions it would grow over time, but never to what it is now."

Which is why, standing on a red carpet before Turn 2's 21st anniversary dinner in downtown Manhattan on Wednesday, Jeter beamed with pride. Turn 2 has outlasted his playing career. It has influenced thousands of kids and raised more than $27 million. Now it prospers as Jeter enters a new phase of his life. He is a new father, and new chief executive officer/CEO of the Miami Marlins. But Turn 2 still occupies a large space in his heart and mind, if not his schedule.

"Obviously, I have a job now," Jeter said. "I'll have to spend a lot of time on that. Community is important. It's part of our family's legacy, and it's important to give back."

Jeter and his family have done that for more than two decades by focusing on youth. Turn 2 encourages young people to embrace healthy lifestyles, strives to foster academic achievement and promotes positive behavior and social change among high school students. Wednesday's anniversary dinner was attended by celebrities and athletes who have been active with the foundation over the years, including former Yankees teammates Tino Martinez, Mariano Rivera and Gerald Williams.

Tino on Turn 2, '17 Yankees

"To see the career he had as a player, I never imagined that," Martinez said of Jeter. "To see him do it year in and year out, it was amazing. On top of that to start a foundation that's lasted this long and made a difference in so many lives, it's incredible what he's done."

It just so happens the anniversary dinner, which had been planned well in advance, fell on the night the next generation of Yankees beat Cleveland, 5-2, in Game 5 of the AL Division Series presented by Doosan.

That prompted Jeter to comment on these Yankees, saying, "I still have a lot of friends who are playing. I'm always pulling for the Yankees, just not if we're [the Marlins are] playing them."

Turn 2 Foundation draws stars

He also commented on several other topics, most notably how he would react, as an owner, to his players kneeling for the national anthem, which has become a national topic in light of a number of NFL players doing just that as a way to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Jeter said he wouldn't tell a player not to kneel.

"The thing I think that's probably frustrating about this rhetoric that's going around is, we lose sight of why someone was kneeling," Jeter said. "We focus so much on that someone was kneeling, as opposed to what they're kneeling for. Peaceful protests are fine. You have your right to voice your opinion. As long it's a peaceful protest, everyone should be fine with that."

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.