This week’s Bronx Tale comes from Michael Vallarelli, and it’s a doozy. Here’s his story about a night out in Los Angeles that leads to a chance encounter with the one and only Derek Jeter.
I’m a long time Yankee fan, pretty much born and raised that way. I used to play baseball as a kid, up until High School (I didn’t make JV because someone ratted me out for not running the mile.) Anyway, as a 32 year old New Yorker/Yankee fan, I feel like I saw Derek Jeter’s entire career flourish before my eyes. I went to his first home game with my family, and remembered hearing mutterings about the new kid in town. I must say, from there on watching this dude perform on television with my family was a magical thing. He pretty much made us believe that anything could happen (case in point that 2001 World Series, even though they faltered to the Diamondbacks it was still a beautiful show for everyone.)
Anyway, long story short. My wife and I were in Los Angeles about a year and a half ago for a wedding, and met up with some friends for dinner at the hip restaurant Gjelina in Venice Beach. Now my wife warned me before we even got to LA that if I see anyone “famous” to try to be cool about it, because she’s heard the stories; (I once asked Elvis Costello to record my voicemail greeting, and he did! But it didn’t actually record.) Hell, this was my first time in LA. I didn’t know what to expect, honestly.
With that said, we sat down to start eating and drinking, and I’m in a pretty committed conversation with this dude about something or another, and he stops and says, “Holy shit. Derek Jeter just walked into the restaurant.” Now this guy lives in LA and is used to “famous” people being everywhere, but this just seemed like a game changer (no pun intended.) All bets were off. It’s not like some singer or lame actor walked in. Derek Jeter is clearly a different caliber “celebrity,” especially if you follow the Yankees or baseball in general. I pretty much immediately started giggling, looked back, and saw him walk towards the back of the restaurant. So I basically can’t think about anything else at this point. I don’t care about the beautiful rustic pizza with arugula, or the spruced up market vegetable sides with shaved Parmesan. All I can think is, “I need to cal my dad and brother ASAP.” Now I didn’t do that immediately, but I did basically let everyone know that I was checked out of this little dinner because Derek bleeping Jeter was in the house. So I did what any normal fanboy would do, go to the bathroom since it was pretty much right there next to him. I literally remember what his back looked like, I’m weird whatever. So anyway, I got my glance of him, and Hannah Davis (!) and walked back to my table, enjoyed my meal and thought to myself, “this meal is going to end, and I’m going to be cool and not say anything.” However, as we were eating some sort of artisanal chocolate dessert, the dude looked at says, “He’s leaving!”
A lot of this part is a blur, but here’s what happened. I turned around and said something to the effect of, “Hi I’m Michael Derek Jeter I watched you growing up playing baseball it meant so much to my family… 9/11, role model, World Series, my dad and brother, greatest player I’ve ever…” I knew I was basically that starstruck idiot and I most likely freaked this dude out, along with his supermodel fiancée. But Mr. Jeter puts his hand out, smiles and says, “It’s very nice to meet you.” I called my dad and brother immediately after to tell them the story and how nice he was, and they both said, “You didn’t take a picture!?” Honestly, the handshake and smile that DJ extended was far better.
I think I speak for all of us when I say, Michael you are one lucky dude, and you reacted how each and everyone of us would have. Check out Michael and his band on Twitter, Facebook and check out their site.