Sunday, July 10, 2011

Derek Jeter's 3000 Storybook Day

Derek Jeter is a private person to the rest of the world. Buttoned up in interviews. Quietly lives his life off the field, even when dating the most beautiful starlets. But when Derek Jeter is on a baseball field there is nothing quiet about what he does. The "Flip Play", "Mr. November", the dive into the stands, are all part of Jeter's very public baseball persona. We all knew Jeter would get his 3,000th hit any day now, but only Jeter puts on the type of show he did on Saturday.

Jeter became just the second player (Wade Boggs the other) to hit a home run for his 3,000th hit. He got it in his second at-bat (3rd inning) after he singled through the left side his first time up. It tied the game at 1-1 against David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays. But Jeter was far from through.

He ripped a double to left in the 5th and scored on a Curtis Granderson single.

One inning later he singled to right with a very Jeterian swing, the one you would have expected on #3000, and then stole second on the back end of a double steal with Brett Gardner.

With the game tied 4-4 in the 8th (after a rare David Robertson bad inning) he singled back through the middle, past the drawn in infield to score Eduardo Nunez from third with the go ahead/winning run.

A 5-5 day, the first player to perform such a feat on the day he got his 3,000th (Craig Biggio also had a five hit days, in six at-bats when he got his 3,000 hit in an 11 inning game). He became the 28th player to reach the 3K total. He beat Pete Rose by nine days to become the fourth youngest player to achieve the milestone. With his third hit of the day he passed the great Roberto Clemente for 27th place on the all-time hits list. He needs just four hits to catch Al Kaline, seven to catch his former teammate Boggs, 17 to reel in Rafael Palmeiro, and 20 to chase down the speedy Lou Brock. He could conceivably move into the top 20 by season's end.

Back to the hit itself. Jorge Posada, Jeter's best friend on the team, said he would be the first to greet the Yankees captain when he got his 3,000th hit and he was right. Posada was first in line to hug Jeter as he crossed home plate. Mariano Rivera was right behind him with his arms outstretched. All of Jeter's teammates, manager, and coaches followed suit. And the fans, who were standing throughout his entire at-bat, roared on and on.

And no one left when the game ended. YES' Kim Jones interviewed a very humbled Jeter on the field ("Hitting a home run was the last thing I was thinking about") after Rivera recorded the save. The interview was interrupted near it's end when the fans en masse changed "Der-ek Je-ter". The captain raised his cap in acknowledgement for a group that just could not shower enough love on their long-time player and icon, and one of them in particular displayed a very Jeterian quality.

Christian Lopez caught Jeter's home run in the left field bleachers. He could have, as John Flaherty said, sold it to the highest bidder. But Lopez, who was brought into the YES broadcast booth during the game, would have none of it. He didn't want anything other than to give Jeter the ball. He was at the game because his girlfriend had bought seats as a birthday gift for him. His Dad, wearing a DiMaggio jersey put a bear hug around his son to keep others from trying to grab the ball away from him. (the ball actually hit his hands first.)

While he may not have gotten money, Lopez had a day he won't soon forget. The recent college grad with a degree in government has been working at a Verizon Wireless store to "get by". It wouldn't be suprising if his fling with fame got him a job more to his liking and interests. What it did get him was a load of "DJ 3K" merchandise and a set of suite tickets for every home game, playoffs included, for the rest of the season. And the very excited young man ("You're the voice of the Yankees" he excitedly exclaimed to Michael Kay.) got his best gift after the game. He got to meet the man himself and had pictures taken with him.

The only thing missing from the day was his Jeter's mom Dorothy and his sister Sharlee who were at a christening, but Jeter's dad Charles kept them appraised by phone. He did an interview with Kim Jones shortly after his son's big hit and you could tell where Derek got his values from. The first thing papa Jeter said was, "We really need a win today".

Jeter got the hit, the win, and a day he'll never forget. Neither will any of the rest of us.

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