The captain of the New York Yankees called Donna Soto, the mother of Vicki Soto, the young teacher killed protecting her first-grade students during the heartbreaking mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut last week. The call was a happy surprise for the family and lifted some of the clouds on what was perhaps the darkest day of their lives.
Jeter is not the only athlete to reach out to the victims’ families. New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz met with the family of 6-year old victim Jack Pinto, who was laid to rest wearing the jersey of his favorite player. Cruz also paid tribute to his young fan by writing RIP Jack Pinto on his shoes during last Sunday’s Giants football game. Sometimes we forget that athletes are people just like the rest of us, but they are human beings and they are sharing in the pain we are all feeling over the loss of so many innocent children and their heroic protectors.
If it were up to Derek Jeter, we never would have heard about that call. Jeter uses his superpowers for good, but he never seeks recognition for it. In his Jeter biography, The Captain, Ian O’Connor tells a great story about a firehouse visit the Yankees organization scheduled after the 9/11 attacks, of which they notified the press that Yankee players would be available to talk. But Jeter objected because of his concern that a photo op and news conference would trivialize the pain of these exhausted rescue workers and the families of the victims. The captain refused to budge and a private, non-publicized visit happened on a later date.
We usually only find out about Jeter’s good deeds when the person on the receiving end chooses to talk about them, as Soto’s sister did in publicly thanking the Yankees for a phone call that meant the world to her grieving mother. Jeter would never have said a word, mostly out of respect for the Soto family’s devastating personal loss, but also because he does most of his good deeds out of the public view. And that’s the way it should be.