There’s no questioning — or denying — that Feb. 12, 2014, was a disheartening day for Yankee fans. It was then — when the iconic shortstop retired — and that was Derek Jeter. But the bigger question is, “Will Derek Jeter become the first unanimous inductee into Baseball’s Hall of Fame?” Maybe. Whether he does — or he does not — Jeter will always be remembered as the greatest shortstop of all-time. No question about it.
But now, ‘there’s a new sheriff in town’. That is Mariekson “Didi” Gregorius. Gregorius is many things: a knight, an artist, and a pretty darn good baseball player. But, one thing he’s not: a new Derek Jeter. So what? Because the only thing running through Gregorius’s mind is to place himself as one of the all-time greats in the annals of Yankees history.
“I want to be the best for my team. That’s all I care about. Trust me,” Gregorius acknowledged.
All I can think of is — Gregorius is proving himself as a bona fide star.
Full Name: Mariekson Julius “Didi” Gregorius
Birthdate: February 18, 1990
Birth Place: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Team: New York Yankees/ MLB
We all heard the expression: “It runs in the family.” Well, that’s the case with the Gregorius family. How so? Didi’s father was a pitcher for the Amsterdam Pirates in Honkbal Hoofdklasse, his mother played for the Dutch national softball team, and his older brother was a professional pitcher in Honkbal Hoofdklasse and the Italian Baseball League. Then, all talk and eyes were on Didi.
When Didi was young, he was already an athlete. He played tee-ball in the Netherlands — then moved to Curacao — and played basketball and soccer. As years went by, he attended Maria Immaculata Leceum High School in Curacao. As a second baseman in high school, he emerged as an unsung power threat — proving one thing — it was time for the Minors.
Small Island to Big Leagues
In 2007, Didi’s lifelong dream came true. Which was? His road to becoming an elite hitter and a future Major League Baseball (MLB) star. But that year, Gregorius had to make a deliberate decision. Did he want to play baseball in the United States? Without hesitation, he said yes. So he signed with the Cincinnati Reds as an amateur free agent. Then, that big day came. He made his professional debut with the Gulf Coast Reds of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2008. The following year, Gregorius saw a boost in his numbers with the Billings Mustangs of the Rookie-level Pioneer League. He batted .314 in 255 plate appearances. He continued to get promoted in the minors with the Cincinnati Reds organization before being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks after the 2012 season.
In 2013, he began the season in the minors. But that soon changed. The moment was finally here… His first major league start as a second baseman. You can only imagine the “adrenalin rush” he had walking onto the baseball field. And hear this — it doesn’t get more exciting and starstruck than this — Gregorius hit his first career home run on the first pitch of his first at-bat. Now, isn’t that something! My goodness! However, a few days later, Gregorius got the wind knocked right out of him when he was hit in the batting helmet by a 93-mile-per-hour fastball. As a result, he suffered a mild concussion and was placed on the seven-day disabled list for concussions.
Gregorius last year (2014), with the Diamondbacks, was spent back in the Minor Leagues. He was sent to the Reno Aces of the Pacific Coast League (PCL). A few months later, the Diamondbacks promoted Gregorius, and he split playing time with shortstop, Chris Owings.
The Next Jeter… Or A Better Jeter?
The day #2 Derek Jeter retired, it was time to call the next golden glove shortstop. And you know who that was… Didi Gregorius. He was acquired by the New York Yankees on Dec. 25, 2014, in a three-team trade. And what is he known for on the Yankees? His “victory tweets”. But enough talk about him — let’s dive in on how he’s on the path to potentially become an All-Star.
On April 6, 2015, Gregorius made his opening day start at shortstop. At the beginning of the season, he struggled offensively and defensively — while committing six defensive errors in two months. However, he began to ‘up his game’. On July 27, he went 3-for-4 with a home run and, a career high, 4 RBIs. As the season concluded, he played in 155 games and hitting a career-high 9 home runs with 56 RBIs.
And things only got better for Gregorius.
For the first time that season, he helped the Yankees make an unbelievable comeback against the reigning Texas Rangers — who came into that game with the AL’s best record at 51-27. But that didn’t stop Gregorius from smashing a walk-off two-run home run to cap a six-run comeback to defeat the Rangers 9-7. Now, we are starting to see Gregorius blossom into a superstar.
When the 2017 season came about, he would miss the first few weeks of the season due to a shoulder injury. Once he returned with the Yankees, he was back to his A-game. On June 10, he hit a huge milestone in his baseball career — his 500th major league hit. That’s quite impressive. But wait… there’s more! Less than two weeks later, he hit his 50th home run of his career. Then, he did the impossible. He broke the all-time record for most home runs in a season by a Yankee shortstop.
Let’s fast-forward today, he already accomplished another major feat — which was hitting 10 home runs by May 1 — the most of any shortstop this early in the season since 1908.
As we see, Didi Gregorius is not afraid to follow Derek Jeter’s reign. This leaves me to ask, “Is Gregorius a better shortstop now than Jeter?”
Didi Gregorius Contract & Career Stats
Didi Gregorius signed a one-year, $8.5 million contract with the New York Yankees for the 2018 season. Next season, he will be eligible for arbitration, and in 2020, he will be considered a free agent.
Throughout his MLB career, he hit 77 home runs, 301 RBIs, 21 stolen bases, and crossed home plate 311 times.