Behind a sound system blaring holiday hits, Jeter was joined by dozens of helpers from his Turn 2 Foundation, wearing 'Jeter's Leaders' pinstriped jerseys and festive red and green caps. The high schoolers tore through box after box to assemble gift bags and create a happier holiday for many.
"This is the fun time, especially with the foundation," Jeter said. "This is when you get a chance to see all the kids that you've been working with, going through the programs. I always enjoy the holiday season."
Jeter's 'Turn 2 Holiday Express' is one of the activities created to reward children involved in Turn 2's Signature Programs, who are demonstrating positive behavior, academic excellence, and leadership qualities in school and their communities.
Approximately 1,000 gift bags were packed during the session in the Bronx, containing items donated by the Yankees and sponsors of the foundation. After their work was complete, Jeter's Leaders were welcomed in Yankee Stadium's Delta Sky 360 suite for a private party with the Yankees captain.
"It was really great," said Lena Jacobs, 14, a freshman at the NYC Lab School in Manhattan. "I'm excited to be here helping. We know where these gifts are going, and it's very exciting to know that Derek is going to be giving them these gifts, and they're going to be excited to receive them. We're thankful to be helping them out."
While it was a treat for the Leaders to get a chance to rub elbows with a five-time World Series champion, these bright students are taking advantage of opportunities far exceeding a few hours of face time with a Yankee.
Karina Rivera, a 14-year-old freshman at the Academy of Mount St. Ursula in the Bronx, said the most important benefits of Turn 2 have been improving her leadership skills in anticipation of her college career.
"You learn some things that you probably haven't even thought of," Rivera said. "They show you the right ways to live a healthy lifestyle, and that's important, because a lot of people in our society are out there doing drugs or not going to school. We help teach the kids what's right and what's wrong in leading a healthy lifestyle."
Founded with the goal of helping today's youth become tomorrow's leaders, Jeter's venture has far exceeded any visions he might have had in 1996, when the then-rookie told his father, Dr. Charles Jeter, about the idea between bites of pizza in a Detroit hotel room.
Turn 2 has truly become a family affair, as Jeter's father, mother, Dorothy, and sister, Sharlee, are all instrumental in the day-to-day operations.
"It's really important to me," Jeter said. "My parents and my sister were there right from when we started, and in some sense it's given us an opportunity to grow even that much closer. I've enjoyed it."
Jeter wouldn't reveal what the best gift he packed on Thursday was -- "I don't want to spoil the surprises," he said -- but he does remember a few choice Christmas mornings under the tree at home, when Santa brought him everything he'd need to keep progressing toward his dreams.
"I remember getting a baseball glove," Jeter said. "I always played baseball, obviously. You remember those times when you got a new glove."
Continuing a busy offseason in the afterglow of securing the Yankees' 27th World Series title, Jeter returned to New York from Florida to be honored this week as Sports Illustrated's "Sportsman of the Year."
"Considering where we started in Kalamazoo in 1996, it's grown so much," Jeter said. "It couldn't have grown to the point that it is now without the help of all of our sponsors and all the support throughout the community -- not only here in New York, but in West Michigan and Florida."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.