The Yankees shortstop hosted a "Silver Screen" celebration at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square on Thursday evening, providing an opportunity for Jeter to reflect on how much his successful foundation has achieved since its 1996 inception.
"It's really come a long way," Jeter said. "This is bigger and better than we ever imagined. It was a small family foundation, and it's grown. It's grown because of the support from not only the members up here, but the community in New York, in west Michigan and in Florida. It goes beyond anything we originally expected."
Over the past 10 years, Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation has raised more than $3.8 million to directly support signature programs that promote healthy lifestyles, leadership development and academic achievement for youth.
Thursday's celebration was highlighted by the presentation of a special commemorative award to Rachel Robinson, acknowledging Jackie Robinson's tremendous impact on society by shattering Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947.
For Jeter, who first met Robinson at a New York baseball writers' dinner in 1996, when he received his Rookie of the Year Award, the presence of the Dodgers great's widow was especially meaningful.
On April 15 of this season at Oakland, Jeter was one of three Yankees to join Mariano Rivera in wearing No. 42 in tribute to Robinson, to whom Jeter says he owes his opportunity to play professional baseball.
"I think young people are looking for role models and heroes," Robinson said. "They're just desperate for that, and Derek is perfect for that position. He is the young person that they need to emulate and they need to witness. We're very proud of him in many ways."
With the Yankees enjoying an off-day Thursday before opening a three-game series with the Angels on Friday, several of Jeter's teammates made their way into Midtown to show support for the dinner, which also included live auctions and entertainment.
Bobby Abreu, Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui, Wil Nieves and Scott Proctor were among those who donned their formal wear and joined the audience in applauding the foundation's efforts.
"When Derek has a foundation like this, you want to support that," Nieves said. "We wanted to show that we care and represent the team to come to an event like this, and it's very important. I consider it an honor just to be behind it and to support it."
|"On the field is great, but you get the opportunity to impact the lives of kids throughout the community away from the field. I think it's much more important."|
|-- Derek Jeter|
Thursday's award recipients included Dr. Dennis Hunyadi, a resource council member and consultant to the Turn 2 Foundation since 1996; Wanda Mojica, Turn 2's After School program liaison; and Kailani Coba, a rising star on Broadway who has been active in Jeter's summer baseball clinics.
Comic relief was provided by actor, comedian and hardcore Yankees fan Billy Crystal, who made the flight from California to attend the ceremonies. While in New York, Crystal paid a close watch to the Yankees' series against the Red Sox and proclaimed that the 21-24 Bombers still have time to turn it around.
"I think they've been playing really well the last ... day," Crystal said, drawing laughter. It's just a matter of time. History. 1978, 14 1/2 games out in July. [The Red Sox] are going to come back to Earth and we'll be there. Two out of the three games, you ask who was the best team, and you say the Yankees were, by far."
Jeter's father, Dr. Charles Jeter, said that the seven-time All-Star's commitment and attention to detail as the Turn 2 Foundation's president continues even during the baseball season.
"This is Derek's foundation," Dr. Jeter said. "He's the one who put it together, and he's dedicated toward trying to help kids. The added bonus is that we as a family get to work together, so I'm extremely proud of Derek."
What Jeter cannot handle from Yankee Stadium is well taken care of: Dr. Jeter is the foundation's vice president; Jeter's mother, Dorothy, serves as the executive director and Jeter's sister, Sharlee, works tirelessly as the director of development.
The annual dinner is just one source of the revenue that the foundation raises to maintain Jeter's successful signature programs, including Jeter's Leaders, Turn 2 Us Healthy Lifestyles, Turn 2 After School, Turn 2 Baseball Clinics and numerous others.
"We're trying to let young people know," Dr. Jeter said, "that if they work hard and stay away from drugs, try to do well in school and keep good values, they can fulfill their dreams. That's the main thing. Everybody has the opportunity to fulfill their dreams, and we truly believe that."
For Jeter, the investment of time is worthwhile. Hits, runs and even World Series titles are great for Jeter, but the Turn 2 Foundation's efforts bring him a different type of satisfaction.
"I wanted to start a foundation to be a little bit more hands-on, and give me an opportunity to work with the kids," Jeter said. "It's been great. I think it goes above and beyond what you do on the field.
"On the field is great, but you get the opportunity to impact the lives of kids throughout the community away from the field. I think it's much more important."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.