Tuesday, July 15, 2014

All eyes on Derek Jeter as Yankees captain set to enjoy final All-Star Game

A's slugger Josh Donaldson, a first-time All-Star, echoed the sentiments of nearly every player in Minneapolis when asked about having the opportunity to suit up with Jeter on Tuesday night for his All-Star swan song.

July 15, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — When Derek Jeter walked into the American League clubhouse at Coors Field 16 years ago for his first All-Star Game, he immediately noticed a familiar face standing a few lockers away.

It was Cal Ripken Jr., the man who had owned the position as AL shortstop in every All-Star Game between 1984-1996 before moving to third base, where he was about to start for the second straight Midsummer Classic.

Jeter was no slouch himself, having won AL Rookie of the Year honors and a World Series ring in 1996, but the presence of the Orioles’ future Hall of Famer left Jeter feeling a bit star-struck.
“You’re afraid to say anything; I mean, it’s Cal Ripken,” Jeter said. “Even though I’d played against him, I hadn’t really had a chance to talk to him.”

There will probably be similar feelings this week in the AL clubhouse at Target Field, only Jeter will be playing the role of Ripken as he suits up for the 14th and final All-Star Game of his career.

“I hope no one is scared to say anything,” said Jeter, who will be the AL’s leadoff hitter. “I try to be as personable as possible and approach as many people as I can.

“I like when you get an opportunity to meet the guys you really don’t know, to spend some time with them. A lot of guys are here for the first time, so it’s always fun to see their excitement.”

That includes Josh Donaldson, the Oakland slugger starting at third base for the AL. The 28-year-old recalled some early conversations initiated by Jeter during games when Donaldson reached second base. “He’s a very personable guy; he’s not scared to have a conversation with you,” Donaldson said. “I remember the first time I played against him, I hit a double and he’s like, ‘Hey, nice swing, kid.’ I was like, ‘Thanks, Mr. Jeter.’ I saw him kind of chuckle.”

Donaldson, a first-time All-Star, echoed the sentiments of nearly every player in Minneapolis when asked about having the opportunity to suit up with Jeter on Tuesday night for his All-Star swan song.

“It’s going to be awesome; I really think it’s just going to be one of those times where you just try to keep your emotions in check,” Donaldson said. “For myself, it was nothing that I could have ever dreamed of as a kid, to be able to play next to Derek Jeter. You look at him as this next-level kind of guy. You can’t even really say it’s a dream come true; it’s just one of those things that you have to appreciate for the sheer fact that he’s, in my opinion, one of the greatest guys to play the game. It’s going to be an honor to play with him.”

Jeter’s veteran All-Star teammates appear to be just as excited about taking part in the event as the youngsters.

“It will be a cool experience to be a part of this and he deserves everything that he gets,” Boston’s Jon Lester said. “Hopefully he won’t get hounded too much and he can actually enjoy it and have fun and really take away some memories from this.”

A year ago, Mariano Rivera — with an assist from Jim Leyland — stole the show at Citi Field, taking the field all alone in the eighth inning while the crowd showered him with applause. It remains to be seen what John Farrell has in store for Jeter, though some have speculated that he’ll remove the Captain in the middle of an inning to give him a chance to walk off the field to what will likely be a thunderous ovation.

“I’m sure somebody has something up their sleeve to do something special for him,” Toronto’s Mark Buehrle said. “He definitely deserves it.”

“I think that’s going to be one of the very most emotional moments of this game,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I think everybody is waiting to see how he’ll be received. You’re here because you love baseball, so to be able to see it in person, it will be the highlight for many of us.”

Jeter said he has no expectations for any moment Tuesday night, and while he plans to soak in the atmosphere, he said he’s treated his other 12 All-Star appearances (he didn’t show up for the 2011 game after collecting his 3,000th hit the previous weekend) with the same appreciation.

“I’ve never just assumed that I’d be coming back,” Jeter said. “Every All-Star Game I came to, I treated it like it could be my last one.”

This time, he’s right.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/first-timers-vets-alike-set-laud-yanks-retiring-legend-article-1.1866892#ixzz37XMTcKxl

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