Years after retiring from the Yankees, Derek Jeter wanted to take a big swing.
The Hall of Fame shortstop explained why he decided to reflect on his famously private MLB career through a new ESPN documentary series, “The Captain,” after the first episode premiered Sunday night at the Tribeca Festival.
“It started right around the Hall of Fame,” Jeter, who is in the baseball hall’s 2020 class, said onstage during a talk at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center.
“I thought, ‘I want to capture this. I want to capture it so I can have it in the future, share it with my girls when they get older, because they probably won’t believe most of my career,’” the father of three daughters continued. “It just turned into a bigger project.”
Directed by Randy Wilkins, the seven-part documentary explores Jeter’s 20 seasons with the Yankees and the challenges he faced along the way.
The first episode showcases Jeter’s youth, the day he was drafted by the Yankees in 1992, and how he overcame his early struggles in the minor leagues to make it to the majors.
Jeter, who became the Yankees’ team captain in 2003, says he sat down for about 30 hours of interviews for the documentary, allowing him to look back on his career in ways he previously hadn’t.
“One thing that I’ve always had a real tough time during my career [was] I never had a chance to reflect on anything I’ve done, because it’s always, ‘What’s next?’ It could be a character flaw, but I think it’s probably the reason why I’m here,” Jeter, 47, said.
The first episode also covers Jeter’s experience growing up in a biracial family in Kalamazoo, Mich.
“I’m a little biased, but I think I have the best parents in the world,” Jeter, dressed in a tan suit for Sunday’s talk, said. “They’re here today. My sister as well. We were very close growing up, and we were close because we went through some things. You grow closer any time you have to deal with some adversity, but family is what shapes who you are as a person.”
Oscar-winning filmmaker Spike Lee, who executive produced the series, said at Sunday’s event that Jeter originally asked him to direct the series, but he was already working on another project. Lee recommended his longtime collaborator Wilkins, whom he’d taught at the NYU graduate film school.
Wilkins conducted 90 interviews for “The Captain,” including with Jeter’s family and former teammates such as Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Alex Rodriguez.
“I feel proud that Derek opened up to me, that he was vulnerable with me, that he was vulnerable with the world,” Wilkins said at Sunday’s event. Jeter won five championships with the Yankees, including in 2000 when he was the World Series MVP. His 3,465 hits are the most in team history, and the sixth most ever in the MLB. His No. 2 was retired by the team in 2017.
Jeter’s former manager Joe Torre and longtime teammate CC Sabathia were among the audience members at Sunday’s event, where many Yankees fans wearing Jeter T-shirts or pinstriped No. 2 jerseys also packed the auditorium.
The crowd even broke into a “DER-EK JET-ER” chant after he took the stage.
Jeter became the CEO of the Miami Marlins in 2017 and had an ownership stake in the team until parting ways with the organization in February. He said there have been “very few days” he had to root against the Yankees in his life, mentioning that the Marlins clinched a playoff spot in 2020 at Yankee Stadium.
“I’ve never outwardly rooted against the New York Yankees,” Jeter said. “And I’m happy to know I’ll never have to root against them again.”
“The Captain” is ESPN’s latest documentary series covering a big-name athlete, with others including 2020′s Michael Jordan-focused “The Last Dance,” and “The Man in the Arena” about Tom Brady, which premiered last year.
The first episode of “The Captain” premieres July 18 on ESPN and the ESPN+ streaming service, with subsequent installments set to release every Thursday.