Just another All-Star Game for Jeter

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MINNEAPOLIS — It was typical of Derek Jeter to take a matter-of-fact approach to the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field and not place any special significance of his last go-round among the top players of the game.

The FOX network that is broadcasting Tuesday night’s event had wanted to have a microphone on Jeter to record his throughs during the game. You know his answer to that, an emphatic no. Yankees fans would have been proud of Jeter’s appearance at Monday’s media session at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. While most players were dressed casually, there was Jeter in a power blue suit complete with tie. Classy, as usual.

“I don’t go into things with expectations,” Jeter told reporters. “I’m looking forward to playing the game, and I pretty much stopped it right there. I’ve always enjoyed All-Star Games, and I’ve always appreciated it, so I don’t think I’ll treat this one any differently. Everybody wants me to be so emotional all of the time, but I’m coming here to play the game, and everything else that comes with it, I don’t know.”

Opposing catcher Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers for one cannot wait to see what the reaction to Jeter will be.

“When he comes to the plate, you know he’s going to get a two-minute standing ovation,” Lucroy said. “I was telling my wife, ‘What am I going to do? It’s going to be awkward.’ I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my hands. I may drop everything and start cheering myself.”

Jeter has been pretty coy about this farewell tour stuff, not wanting teams to over-do it. He’s a different sort from Mariano Rivera, who basked in the glow of his farewell tour a year ago. Jeter just wants to go about his business. There is still baseball to play this year. He is still wearing a Yankees uniform. He is still ready to contribute on a daily basis.

I cannot believe that some writers criticized American League manager John Farrell of the Red Sox for batting Jeter leadoff in the game, claiming the Yankees captain was not deserving due to his .272 batting average. Give me a break. Have these people no sense of propriety. Jeter earned the spot not just for this season but for all 19 years that preceded it.

I would like to remind these critics that Jeter has had one of the best All-Star careers in the game’s history. He took a .440 average into Tuesday night’s game with five runs, one double, one home run and three RBI in 25 at-bats. He was the Most Valuable Player of the 2000 game at Turner Field in Atlanta when he went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBI. Later that year, he was the MVP of the Yankees’ World Series triumph over the Mets. His All-Star home run came in 2001 at Safeco Field in Seattle.

Farrell is not alone in his admiration for Jeter. Listen to what two other managers, AL coaches Ron Gardenhire of the Twins and Terry Francona of the Indians, had to say about Jeter to USA Today:

“Although he has kicked our butt a lot of times and knocked us out of the playoffs, I admire him so much,” Gardenhire said, referring to the Yankees beating the Twins, 12-2, in postseason games with Jeter at shortstop.

Added Francona, “That’s the single high point of being here, to watch him in person. I am thrilled. He represents what is good about this game.”

Chiming in was National League shortstop Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies: “He’s everything I always wanted to be. He’s why I play shortstop. He’s why I wear No. 2. And to be starting across the side opposite side of him in his final All-Star Game will definitely be cool.”

It was also typical of Jeter when asked his favorite All-Star moment not to pick a game in which he starred. He picked the 1999 game at Fenway Park in Boston when he was 0-for-1. What made it special to Jeter was that the All-Century Team was honored before the game.

“All those great players on the field, and I get a tap on my shoulder,” Jeter recalled. “It’s Hank Aaron. He said he was looking for me because he wanted to meet me. He wants to meet me? That’s one of the best moments on the baseball field that stands out for me.”

In the same vein, commissioner Bud Selig commented on Jeter during his annual question-and-answer session at the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s All-Star meeting at the Marriott City Center Hotel.

“If you said two decades ago that this is the guy you wanted to be the face of baseball and being what this generation will remember, you couldn’t have written a script better,” Selig said. “I said to a friend of mine last night talking about Henry Aaron, ‘How lucky can you be to have an American icon like Henry Aaron?’ How lucky can this sport be to have an icon for this generation like Derek Jeter? He has just been remarkable.”

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