TAMPA — Yankees captain Derek Jeter said the decision was easy and something he had known for months.
It was much tougher trying to explain why he plans to retire after this season, ending one of the most celebrated careers in the storied franchise's history.
So Jeter, 39, said he sat at home, writing and editing his thoughts on several pages of a notebook before finishing the 14-paragraph Facebook announcement that shocked the baseball world last week.
"It took a while," he said. "I could have written another 3-4 pages, but I thought I'd lose interest with people after one."
Judging from the packed pavilion at Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday for Jeter's first public comments since the announcement, a novel might not have sufficed.
Jeter made it clear it wasn't a retirement news conference. But he told the crowd of about 300 — including media, teammates and several members of the Steinbrenner family — that he's ready for life after baseball.
"It's time," he said. "You can't do this forever."
Jeter was emphatic that the decision had nothing to do with his health. But he acknowledged that during an injury-plagued 2013, when he appeared in 17 games and batted .190, baseball began to feel more like a job, and he's eager to pursue other interests, including having a family.
"That's important to me," he said.
Manager Joe Girardi said Wednesday was vintage Jeter — no tears or signs of emotion, no prepared statement. To him, it was just another day.
Jeter admitted that he never fully "enjoyed the ride," a 19-year career that has included five World Series titles, 3,316 hits, countless memories and an eventual spot in Cooperstown. He loved the game but said he hid his emotions — and some of his thoughts — by design, believing it's how he could make it this long in New York.
"I have feelings. I'm not emotionally stunted," he said.
Jeter said he knew for a couple of months that he wanted to retire but was advised to take his time. He wanted to make the announcement before the season, believing it would be more of a distraction if he let it linger.
Soon after a Feb. 12 phone conversation with managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, who told Jeter to announce the news his own way, the 13-time All-Star shortstop sent out the post on his Facebook page. "I thought his Facebook was hacked," general manager Brian Cashman said.
Jeter said his favorite moments have been winning, and he hopes to "send all of us out on top."
"I'm not gone yet," he said. "You want to be remembered as someone who played hard. The thing that means the most … is that I'll always be remembered as a Yankee. That's what I always wanted, to be a Yankee. The Steinbrenner family gave me the opportunity to live my dream.
"Once you're a Yankee, you're always a Yankee. So being a Yankee is good enough for me."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]