MLB teams haven't hesitated to shower Derek Jeter with retirement gifts this year. The legendary shortstop has already received his portrait in LEGOs from the Indians, a picture signed by George W. Bush from the Rangers, and two seats from the Tiger Stadium.
But the Tampa Bay Rays may have been the first team to pick out a gift with the athlete's future fitness in mind. In addition to a $16,000 donation to Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation and one of Don Zimmer’s jerseys, the Rays gave No. 2 an 18-foot, pinstriped Epic Kayaks touring boat–a 42-pound, carbon fiber craft that retails at close to $4,000.
When the Rays contacted Darry Jackson, co-president of Tampa outdoor outfitter, Bill Jackson's Shop for Adventure about buying a kayak, he immediately knew the Epic 18X Sport was the only boat for Jeter. "It is the Porsche of kayaks; it might be the finest kayak a person can own," said Jackson of his store’s best-selling fiberglass boat model, one he often paddles on Florida's bays, rivers and lakes.
“It’s a very fast boat with a smart, unusual design,” he said, highlighting the 18X’s integrated rudder and its drawn-out, sleek waterline.
"It's quite an honor to know Jeter has been given one of our boats," Jackson continued. "Whether you're a Yankees fan or not, you have to be a fan of Derek Jeter. He’s just a nice guy."
Jackson does not know if Jeter paddles, but he thinks the Yankee, who has owned a mansion in Tampa for many years, may have time to try it after his baseball career draws to a close. "Considering how athletic Derek Jeter is, if he doesn’t kayak, he should sure start.”
Jim DePergola, owner of Jim's Body Shop in Tampa, spearheaded the kayak's flashy paint job, and he was very pleased with the result: blue pinstripes, a Yankees logo on the front, and a large No. 2 on the back. "Of all the gifts Jeter has received this season, this was one of the better ones," DePergola said. "I think we killed it. It was just wonderful to see the kayak on every channel last night–on ESPN–and to see [Jeter’s] smile. It was a great gift from the Rays.”
Though this was the first kayak DePergola decorated, he already has orders for more. Jackson hopes to hire DePergola to restore the shop's old fiberglass rental boats, and a hockey fan saw the Jeter boat on facebook; she asked DePergola to paint her kayak with Tampa Bay Lightning colors and logo.
What does Jeter have to say about all this? Tuesday night, he told the Tampa Bay Times, "Great kayak, which I'm sure I'll use. You laugh, but I'm sure I'll use it." Darry Jackson hopes to see him out on the water.