BY OWEN SANBORN
Amidst an array of bright lights and scurrying mobs of media, Derek Jeter looks out past the noise, sporting his trademark calm demeanor. The anticipation in the University of Tampa’s Sword and Shield room is palpable and swiftly building itself to a crescendo. It’s not every day that an iconic former captain of the New York Yankees calls an unforeseen press conference on a small college campus.
Sensing the moment, Jeter milks out the patience of the media members, smirkingly whispering into the ears of Larry Marfise and Joe Urso, who bookend Jeter on each side. Something is coming. Something big.
“I’m finally going back to school,” Jeter tells the crowd. “Retirement has presented its fair share of pleasures, but I am ready for a new challenge.”
The room erupts with questions. A new challenge? Is he planning on enrolling in the Sykes School of Business to help with the Players Tribune? Does he want to take up some Marine Biology courses to assist with his next scuba diving escapade?
“By back to school do you mean that you wish to obtain your college degree?” one reporter asks. Jeter, who never attended college after being drafted by the Yankees out of high school, briefly glances over at Urso. A brief moment passes as Urso gives Jeter a look that leads to a slight nod.
“Actually … I am going to be coaching. Starting in the fall of 2016, I am going to be the University of Tampa’s head baseball coach,” Jeter says while holding back a smile.
Again, the room roars with an incredulous combination of excitement and disbelief as a bewildered staff of Campus Safety officers attempt to push back against the tsunami of reporters itching to get in the vicinity of Jeter. The atmosphere grows out of control in an instant, and despite the best efforts of the officers, the crowd could not be contained. Notebooks are confiscated, tape recorders are destroyed, and there was word of a few Apple product-related casualties on the scene.
Jeter, Urso and Marfise escape out the doors unharmed before being greeted by a sea of anxious students seething at the doors of the Martinez Center after soaking in the news through their respective Twitter feeds in real time. The trio rumble through the double doors and approach the raucous crowd, looking out at the downtown Tampa skyline.
Marfise quiets the students with a nifty two finger whistle — a whistle that would make a lifeguard blush — before addressing the situation.
“I understand that the magnitude of this announcement has caught everyone by surprise; including me quite frankly. But we are extremely excited to add Mr. Jeter to our coaching staff knowing that he holds himself and others to the highest standards possible. It will be difficult to say goodbye to Mr. Urso after so many years, but we are confident in the direction the baseball program is heading. Additionally, we are honored to be graced with the presence of Hannah Davis in the future. Should be a tremendous recruiting tool. What a beauty,” said Marfise.
Picking up on Marfise’s lead, Urso echoes similar thoughts, “I want to thank the University of Tampa for providing me with such a unique platform to do what I love for so many years. From my players, staff, Larry, everyone has always supported me and the program. I just think it is time for me to start a new chapter in my life. Maybe Derek can point me to some of his favorite destination spots. Some of the guys showed me some pictures because they follow Hannah Davis on Instagram.”
Although the announcement could be characterized as a shock by most, some of the Spartan’s baseball players did not appear shaken by the change in leadership. “Coach Urso has been acting strange lately. You could definitely tell something was up. I may try and find a way to come back and play next year now that Mr. Jeter is coaching. I heard someone say before that Hannah Davis is going to be in the crowd. I need to be around for that,” said senior outfielder Casey Scoggins.
It is not known if Davis (Jeter’s fiancee) will accompany Jeter to games or practices, but it quickly became apparent that most of the players on the team would not be opposed. “Honestly, I hope Mr. Jeter introduces us to Hannah. I already called dibs on getting her sunscreen if she comes out during some day games,” said freshman pitcher Mark Moclair.
One can only hope that Jeter will be able to withstand the pressures of replacing a campus legend, let alone sustaining his prowess as the alpha male when it pertains to his twenty something year old players and the twenty-five year old Davis.