By COREY NOLES
I did not grow up in a New York Yankees household.
None of the men who taught me about the game and its way of captivating even the most unsuspecting of fans had any love for the Yankees.
Of course, any team with that many championships will leave a wide trail of animosity in their wake.
My own mentors had a definite disdain for the Bronx Bombers, but they also had something else--respect.
In all of sports, the most despised and criticized players are that way because of their success. Kobe Bryant. LeBron James. Tom Brady. Jeff Gordon.
In our home, that same respect was present for many of the Yankees greats. Mickey Mantle. Babe Ruth. Joe DiMaggio.
It's hard not to love what those men meant to this game--their personalities as much as their skills with the ball.
The St. Louis Cardinals are seen as a team to beat by other teams throughout baseball. Why?
Because they're good--the same reason so many baseball fans love to hate the Yankees.
On his first trip to Busch Stadium III during the regular season, Derek Jeter spoke of the Cardinals success as something the Yankees wish they had.
"We're well aware of how good [the Cardinals] are," Jeter said. "They've been good for a very, very long time."
The Cardinals may not play the Yankees often, but that doesn't mean the Yankees don't see their success.
In the same way, everyone in baseball has watched Jeter's unforgettable career, but not just for what he's done on the field. From his textbook-style double play turns to the night when he became baseball's first Mr. November, his resume speaks for itself.
That same success can be found in how he handles himself, both throughout the game and in the community.
When Jeter visited St. Louis this week, he showed a tremendous level of class to all with whom he dealt.
He met with the media and answered the cheesy questions that come with a farewell tour.
He stood in the dugout and signed autographs fans of all shapes and sizes--a practice many superstars have long since abandoned.
He took a moment to acknowledge a crowd that was thankful for the opportunity to watch one of baseball's modern day greats. The Captain's appreciation was genuine.
In a time when professional baseball was enshrouded with controversy and feeling the aftershocks of drug investigations, Jeter continued to breathe fresh air into a sport that was filled with pollution.
Not only did he stay clean and avoid the tabloids (for the most part), he did so in New York City. New York is one of the largest media hotbeds in the world with literally hundreds of reporters chasing the Yankees on any given day.
To keep your reputation clean in that environment is a testament in itself.
Jeter respects the heritage of the game and of the teams who are rich in their own heritage--like the Cardinals and Yankees.
"There's a lot of history--a lot of tradition here in St. Louis," Jeter said when the two teams met up this week. "St. Louis has had a lot of success here over a number of years. Right now, they went to the World Series last year and we're trying to get here."
While Jeter himself may not make it back to the World Series, there's little doubt that the Yankees will once again. It may not be this year. Or next. But it will happen.
Jeter is one of the game's good guys and just like the many before him, the game will miss him when he's gone.
Just like when Ozzie Smith left the game, that same reverence should apply not just to Yankees fans, but to anyone who considers themselves a fan of this great game.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny referred to Jeter this week as a "great ambassador for the game." I couldn't say it better myself.
Corey Noles is a Cardinals Writer and Columnist for The Daily Statesman. He is also a regular contributor to Bleacher Report and KSDK.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @coreynoles.