Thursday, January 18, 2018

A big tip of the cap for the Captain

At some point this fall, he will be just like so many others retiring from his job in New York and moving to Florida. But before Derek Jeter settles permanently into that big house on Tampa's Davis Islands, he has some business to take care of. Tuesday, that included a starring role in his 14th and final All-Star Game in Minneapolis, won by his American League team 5-3. Jeter made a diving stop on the game's first play and rapped two hits, then left the field in the fourth inning to an extended ovation from both teams with New York, New York blaring.

"I thought it was great. I didn't know what was going in happen," Jeter said. "It was a wonderful moment that I'm always going to remember. It was a special moment, unscripted."

Jeter had been the focus of tremendous attention and the TV spotlight leading up to the game — including an awesome Nike hat-tipping commercial — and he did not disappoint.

Jeter delivered in the bottom of the first, lining a double to rightfield in trademark style off St. Louis' Adam Wainwright, then scoring on Angel Mike Trout's triple. In the third, Jeter battled back from an 0-2 count against Cincinnati's Alfredo Simon and singled to right, then moved to second on a wild pitch but got no farther.

Jeter took his position at shortstop for the fourth, but was replaced by the White Sox's Alexei Ramirez and left to thunderous applause, tipping his cap repeatedly, coming back out of the dugout for a curtain call, then hugging his way through the dugout.

"The way the fans treated me, these are fans from all different teams — to have them react like that was special," Jeter said.

The crowd treated the evening as a Jeterfest, showering him with applause and ovations during pregame introductions and before both at-bats, chanting his name Yankee Stadium-style. There were other touches as well, using a recorded PA introduction by late Yankee Stadium announcer Bob Sheppard before both at-bats and playing Frank Sinatra when he left.

"You could tell he was kind of taken aback," Rays pitcher David Price said of Jeter's ovation.

"That was a special moment to see. I didn't see any tears, but I'm sure he fought them back."

Wainwright later curiously claimed to have grooved the pitch Jeter doubled on, saying — "I was going to give him a couple pipe shots. He deserved it" — but then later backtracked contritely, saying he misspoke. "I'm an idiot," he said.

Jeter, with a career .481 (13-for-27) All-Star average, chuckled at the thought: "If he grooved it, thank you. You've still got to hit it. I appreciate it if that's what he did.''

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