By Larry Fine
NEW YORK Wed Feb 12, 2014 6:55pm EST
(Reuters) – New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said on Wednesday he would retire from Major League Baseball at the end of the 2014 season, a decision the 19-year veteran said he made after being hobbled by injuries last year.
In a post on his Facebook page, Jeter, 39, widely considered one of baseball’s greatest shortstops, said he made the decision following a tough 2013 season when he struggled to recover from a broken ankle and other injuries.
“Last year was a tough one for me. As I suffered through a bunch of injuries, I realized that some of the things that always came easily to me and were always fun had started to become a struggle. The one thing I always said to myself was that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it would be time to move forward.
“So really it was months ago when I realized that this season would likely be my last. As I came to this conclusion and shared it with my friends and family, they all told me to hold off saying anything until I was absolutely 100 percent sure.
“And the thing is, I could not be more sure. I know it in my heart. The 2014 season will be my last year playing professional baseball.”
Jeter, a winner of five World Series rings and a 13-time All-Star who stands 10th on MLB’s all-time hits list with 3,316, played only 17 games in 2013 as the Yankees missed the playoffs for only the second time in Jeter’s 19 years with the club.
The shortstop was a late-season call-up for the Yankees in 1995 before claiming the job for his own in 1996 and winning American League Rookie of the Year honors. He helped the Yankees win the 1996 World Series, their first championship in 18 years.
That began a glorious run for the Bronx Bombers, who also won three Fall Classic crowns in a row from 1998 under manager Joe Torre.
Jeter and his teammates also reached the World Series in 2001 and 2003 before returning to the winner’s circle in 2009.
His departure will mark a second momentous farewell in as many seasons for the Yankees following the retirement announced ahead of the 2013 season by all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said the sport would be saluting the future Hall of Famer during the upcoming season.
“In the 21-plus years in which I have served as commissioner, Major League Baseball has had no finer ambassador than Derek Jeter,” Selig said in a statement.
“He is one of the most accomplished and memorable players of his – or any – era.
“Derek is the kind of person that generations have emulated proudly, and he remains an exemplary face of our sport. Major League Baseball looks forward to celebrating his remarkable career throughout the 2014 season.”
The announcement by Jeter, who will turn 40 in June, seemed to take the Yankees off guard.
“It surprised me a little bit,” Gene Michael, senior vice president of the Yankees and the team’s general manager when Jeter joined the club, told ESPN radio.
“Eight years ago he told me he wanted to play 10 more years and this is only nine.”
Jeter was a steadying force for the Yankees over nearly two decades, rarely making a misstep on the field or off, and he has been hailed as a clutch performer who often performed his best under the brightest spotlight.
His sense of the occasion may best be illustrated by the June day in 2011 when Jeter reached the 3,000-hit milestone.
The Yankee captain went 5-for-5 at the plate, hitting a home run in his last at-bat for hit number 3,000 in front of an ecstatic Yankee Stadium crowd.
“It won’t surprise me if he has a good year and steps out,” Michael said. “He knows what he wants to do. He’s smart.
“He’s handled himself as well as anybody could ever do it. He’s been a great, great, great asset for the Yankees and we’ve been lucky to have him.”
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Paul Simao)