At some point this fall, he will be just like so many others retiring from his job in New York and moving to Florida full time. 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, 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 left 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, and it was 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.
He made an impressive play in the first inning to snag a hot shot from National League leadoff man Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, but his throw, after scrambling to his feet, was just late to first. 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.
"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."
The crowd treated the entire 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, AL/Boston manager John Farrell consulting with Joe Torre on how best to handle Jeter's exit.
"The way these fans treated me, you know, these fans are from all different teams, and fans have always been respectful of me my entire career, both at home and on the road, and to have them in the All-Star game especially," Jeter said.
The other players showed their respect from the start. NL catcher Jonathan Lucroy stepped back from the plate, and Wainwright stepped behind the mound, leaving his glove on the ground so he could clap with both hands.
Wainwright later curiously claimed to have taken his respect higher by grooving the pitch Jeter doubled on — saying "I was going to give him a couple pipe shots. He deserved it" — but then later backtracked, saying he misspoke.
"When I said down the pipe, I should've said I tried to execute a good strike and get him out. And I didn't say that. So I'm probably going to take some heat. But you know what? I'm going to sleep easy tonight knowing the truth. I just hope it doesn't take away from Derek's moment. I really do. If this comes back in a negative way at all, I really regret saying that stupid thing,'' Wainwright said. "And, I'm an idiot.''
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.''
As vastly popular and famous as Jeter is, he prefers to not be in the spotlight, and said he appreciated that more of a spectacle wasn't made.
"The All-Star game is about everybody that's here, it's not about one particular person,'' he said. "And, you know, I've always been uncomfortable, so to speak, when the focus is on me. And I felt as though the focus should be on everyone that's in the game.''
Want proof? When Jeter was asked to address the team pre-game, he thanked them. "You know, we should be thanking him for what he brings to the game,'' Trout said.
Want more? When Wainwright stood behind the mound clapping, Jeter waved at him to pick up his glove and start pitching. "I have a lot of respect for the man as a man and a baseball player,'' Wainwright said. "I just felt like that was the right time to give him his due."
The AL, which won homefield advantage in the World Series, took a 3-0 lead in the first, as Detroit's Miguel Cabrera followed Jeter's double — his first All-Star extra-base hit since 2001 — and Trout's triple with a home run. The NL came back to tie, getting two in the second when Milwaukee's Aramis Ramirez singled and Philadelphia's Chase Utley and Lucroy doubled, then one in the fourth when Utley was hit by a pitch by the White Sox's Chris Sale and Lucroy doubled in pinch-runner Dee Gordon of the Dodgers.
The AL went back ahead in the fifth. Oakland's Derek Norris and Ramirez singled, and Trout doubled off St. Louis' Pat Neshek for one, then Houston's Jose Altuve greeted Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard, a Mitchell High product, with a sac fly. Trout, 2-for-3 with two RBIs, was named game MVP.
No Rays played, as Price, the lone selection, was inactive after pitching Sunday. Two former Rays pitched for the AL. The A's Scott Kazmir started the sixth, and the Mariners' Fernando Rodney ended the eighth, then shot his arrow.
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.