MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Derek Jeter was a huge hit from the very start in his final All-Star game.
Batting leadoff for the American League, the 40-year-old shortstop for the New York Yankees soaked in an ovation that lasted more than a minute at Target Field, then seized the moment Tuesday night by hitting a double.
Jeter soon crossed the plate for the game’s first run. After three innings of action, he was ceremonially removed from his familiar position in the field to one more round of revering cheers as his mom, dad, sister and nephew watched from the stands.
“It’s been fun family time for us,” Jeter said later.
The double was one of Jeter’s classic, opposite-field line drives to right. He singled to right field in his next at-bat, too, raising his All-Star batting average to a robust .481 — 13 hits in 27 at-bats. That’s the second-best of all time for players with 20 or more at-bats, behind Charlie Gehringer.
OK, so maybe NL starter Adam Wainwright admitted he threw something juicy for Jeter to hit.
“I was going to give him a couple pipe shots,” the right-hander said. “He deserved it.”
Wainwright later said that he didn’t want to take away from Jeter’s first inning hit.
“It was mis-said,” the pitcher said in a television interview. “I hope people realize I’m not intentionally giving up hits out there.”
Jeter showed off in the field, too. In the top of the first, he made a slick, diving stop on Andrew McCutchen’s sharp groundball up the middle. Jeter got to his feet and fired an on-target throw to first base, but the fleet-footed McCutchen was too fast, beating it out for a leadoff single.
McCutchen smiled and pointed at Jeter, who grinned back at the reigning NL MVP.
The Yankees captain also had a few words for his teammates. AL manager John Farrell of Boston asked Jeter to speak to the players in the clubhouse before the game.
“Just said a couple things,” Jeter said.
This was the 14th time Jeter was picked as an All-Star. He’s set to retire after this season. When Jeter stepped to the plate, the crowd gave him a 63-second ovation, prompting him to wave, nod and tip his helmet several times.
Wainwright, who spoke the day before about how proud he would be to pitch to Jeter on this memorable occasion, backed up toward second base and left his glove on the mound so he could clap along with everyone else at the ballpark.
“For him to do that meant a lot to me,” Jeter said.
With a wide smile, Jeter shouted a few words toward the St. Louis ace, good-naturedly encouraging him to get the inning going.
“Just saying, ‘Dude, I’m not going anywhere until this ovation is starting to die down,'” Wainwright said. “So he was telling me to go, and I just thought he deserved it.”
Fittingly, a recording of late Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard’s famous monotone introduction was played as he walked up for his at-bat with thousands of smartphones snapping away in the seats: “Now batting, for the American League, from the New York Yankees, the shortstop, No. 2, Derek Jeter, No. 2.”
The tribute came right after a national television audience tuned to Fox saw a Nike commercial that featured the likes of Michael Jordan, Jay-Z and Rudolph Giuliani paying their respects to the captain. Right after that, he connected on the second pitch from Wainwright.
“I didn’t know he was going to hit a double, or I would have changed my mind on that,” Wainwright said. “I thought he was going to hit something hard to the right side for a single or an out. I probably should have pitched him a little bit better.”
In the third, Jeter took Cincinnati ace Alfredo Simon to a full count before his single.
Then, right before the fourth inning began, Jeter was taken out for Alexei Ramirez and the captain jogged off. With Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” playing on the stadium speakers, he waved to the crowd and exchanged hugs and handshakes in the AL dugout and then took a curtain call before the game resumed.
Earlier in the day, Jeter was the first player to ride down the red carpet that was rolled out for downtown parade of the game’s greats, from their hotel to the ballpark about 10 blocks away. The hearty ovations started there, while Jeter rode with his parents and other family members, who came to Minneapolis for the event.
“I think everyone WANTS it to sink in that this is my last,” Jeter said in the clubhouse before batting practice, “but I’m just trying to enjoy it while I’m here and stop thinking about this is the last one.”
Commissioner Bud Selig said Major League Baseball has been discussing ways to formally honor Jeter as he enters the final few months of his career.
“If you were sitting two decades ago and you said, ‘Boy, this is a guy I want to be the face of baseball and be what this generation will remember,’ you couldn’t have written a script like this,” Selig said. “He is just remarkable.”