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Jeter on retiring: ‘Can’t do this forever’

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Published:   |   Updated: February 19, 2014 at 05:01 PM

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TAMPA — Approaching the victory lap of his Hall of Fame career, Derek Jeter made a startling announcement Wednesday.

He’s eager to enjoy the ride.

The 39-year-old captain of the New York Yankees met with the media for 30 minutes and when he wasn’t imploring attending teammates to get back to work at the club’s spring training complex, Jeter fleshed out the Facebook letter he posted last week, announcing that his 20th major-league season will be his last.

“You can’t do this forever,’’ Jeter said. “I’d like to, but you can’t. I feel as though this is the right time. I look forward to doing some other things in my life.’’

Among other pursuits, the 13-time All-Star shortstop is planning on being more involved in his Turn 2 Foundation, which has awarded more than $19 million to support signature programs in Tampa, New York and western Michigan, where he was raised until the Yankees selected him with the sixth pick in the 1992 amateur draft out of Kalamazoo Central High.

Jeter, one of baseball’s most eligible bachelors, also mentioned his interest in starting a family.

The Yankees are already bracing for a farewell tour honoring Jeter, who leads all active major leaguers with 3,316 hits, ranking No. 9 on the all-time list.

“Once I got here, I understood why Derek Jeter was so revered,’’ said first baseman Mark Texeira, entering his sixth season with the Yankees. “There’s a lot of guys who get a lot of attention and when you meet them, you say he’s an alright guy. With Derek, he was everything that was advertised ... and more. He deserves everything that’s coming his way this year.’’

Jeter said he’s too busy preparing for the 2014 season to think about his final receptions around the league. But when the accolades and the standing ovations arrive at opposing stadiums, he intends to soak in every drop of adulation.

“I want to try and enjoy each and every day throughout the course of the year,’’ he said. “It’s been very difficult for me to do that because I’ve always been trying to focus on the next goal and I never really enjoyed the ride. A few years back, when I was going for 3,000 hits, my parents told me you need to try and enjoy it.’’

That’s the same advice Jeter is offering to the next generation of players.

“My message to all the young guys is enjoy it — it goes by quickly,’’ Jeter said. “I got called up to the Yankees in 1995 and it seems like yesterday. You blink and it’s 20 years later. It’s only a small portion of your life that you’re able to play this game, so enjoy each and every moment. For me, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have, but that worked for me.’’

Jeter, who lives nearby on Davis Islands, was limited to only 17 games last season while recovering from a broken left ankle suffered during the 2012 playoffs.

He declared himself fully healthy Wednesday and said the decision to make his 20th season his last has nothing to do with his physical condition.

After earning five Gold Gloves and registering eight 200-hit seasons, Jeter is about to be feted like baseball royalty, a year after Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera received similar treatment,

“I got to see Chipper Jones on his (2012) farewell tour in Atlanta and now I get to see another great player in his last season,’’ said new Yankees catcher Brian McCann. “It’s going to be a treat.’’

Manager Joe Girardi is beginning to realize that the privilege of writing No. 2’s name on New York’s lineup card is coming to an end.

“When I think of Derek Jeter,’’ said Girardi, “the first thing that comes to mind is winner. He’s a winner, and that’s what I’ll remember the most.’’

General manager Brian Cashman said Jeter’s lame-duck status won’t be a distraction as the Yankees seek their first championship since 2009.

“I think it creates an opportunity for people to celebrate Derek’s career, whether it’s opposing teams coming in, opposing players, umpires and fans,’’ Cashman said. “This is a final year for one of the game’s greatest.’’

ikaufman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7833

Twitter: @IKaufmanTBO

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