ST. PETERSBURG — Like most of the other teams bidding farewell to retiring Yankees superstar Derek Jeter, the Rays made a donation to his Turn 2 Foundation, presenting a check for $16,000. And they gave him a customized gift reflective of the area, delivering a 16-foot sea kayak painted with pinstripes and his No. 2.
But the most special, and most touching, gift during Tuesday's brief pregame ceremony was one of the last No. 66 Rays jerseys worn by senior adviser Don Zimmer, long one of Jeter's favorites.
Even better, they had Zimmer's wife, Soot, present the jersey, assisted by third baseman Evan Longoria and catcher Jose Molina, who played with Jeter in New York.
Jeter seemed moved by the gesture, hugging Soot then acknowledging the Rays dugout and the loud crowd of 21,387, waving and tipping his cap.
"It was nice. It was very, very nice,'' Jeter said. "It was special that they included some of the kids that we work with down here. Great kayak, which I'm sure I'll use. You laugh, but I'm sure I'll use it. And I thought it was awesome that Mrs. Zimmer came out. She sent me a little something before, but I didn't think she was going to be out there, so it was good to see her."
The Rays started the ceremony showing the classic Jeter highlights, from his Mr. November World Series walkoff home run, the Flip play against the A's, the Dive into the stands. And, of course, his 3,000th hit, which was a July 2011 home run off the Rays' David Price.
And they had a little fun with the fact that in retirement, Jeter will be living full time in his waterfront Tampa mansion, noting in the introduction:
"And let's not forget, he walks among us. He's a neighbor and maybe … just maybe … a future Rays season ticket holder."
The amount of the check was based on $50 for each of the 316 hits Jeter has against the Rays, most of any opponent, and then rounded up. It was presented by Rays senior vice president Mark Fernandez accompanied by several students from Tampa's St. Peter Claver Catholic School in Tampa, where Jeter's foundation funds scholarships.
The kayak, purchased from Bill Jackson's, was chosen with a nod to Jeter living on the water and having time to use it. It was presented by Rays minor-league operations director Mitch Lukevics, who held the same post with the Yankees when Jeter began his minor-league career in 1992.
Soot Zimmer said she was thrilled to be part of the ceremony, given how close Jeter and Don were. She was invited to Yankee Stadium a few weeks ago for Joe Torre's monument ceremony and was escorted onto the field by Jeter. He joked with her then, "You're stuck with me," and she told him that was perfectly fine. So Tuesday, after presenting the jersey, she told him, "You're stuck with me again."
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Among others notables at the Trop for the ceremony were Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg, who was on the field, and former managing general partner Vince Naimoli, who was in a suite.
The night didn't all go well for Jeter, who was 0-for-2 with a bunt, extending his skid to 0-for-26, and was hit by a pitch his last at-bat.
DIRK SHADD | Times
Retiring Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter raises his cap to salute the crowd at Tropicana Field as he is honored by the Rays before Tuesday's game. The ceremony included gifts of a donation to his charity, a sea kayak and a presentation of a Don Zimmer jersey by Zimmer's widow, Soot. 4C