I’m a Mariners fan. This is at least the third time I’ve written this since I began working here – and I promise you I have a reason for saying it again. Just bear with me.

The Mariners have been bad for a decade. The last time they were good was 2001, when they won 116 games in the regular season and were promptly bounced by the Yankees in the ALCS.

I pointed all of my anger for that series (and the 2000 Yankees that also beat the Mariners) at Derek Jeter. He was the symbol of the Yankees. The face behind the machine.

I was an emotional 12-year-old at the time. I didn’t know why I hated Derek Jeter, I just did. He just represented the team that had shattered my dreams. He had what my team wanted and has never gotten.

I tried my best to hold onto this hate until I was about 16.

But I just couldn’t do it anymore.

The more my own baseball career evolved, and the more my own baseball mind evolved, the more I grew to respect No. 2.

I respected his leadership – the calming presence he had when he would go talk to a struggling pitcher.

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I respected his ability at the plate – the way he could fist even the toughest of fastballs into right field. The way he could fight off 0-2 pitch after 0-2 pitch and eventually work a walk. How he crowded the plate just to frustrate pitchers.

I respected that he played a great shortstop. That he could steal a base. That he wasn’t A-Rod.

I’m really rooting for Jeter to stay healthy and have a productive final season. His retirement symbolizes the end of a lot of things, and that’s sad to think about.

It’s the end of the “Core Four.” It’s the last link to the Yankees dynasties of the late-90s and early-2000s. And for a lot of people my age, it’s the last link we have to a childhood we wish we had back.

I used to curse Derek Jeter. I used to revile Derek Jeter. But as he gets set for his final home opener this afternoon, I just admire Derek Jeter.

Yes, I’ll be feeling a lot of things on Monday.

But hate isn’t one of them.

Thanks, Derek.