Derek Jeter strode to the plate in the first inning Tuesday night in his 14th and final All-Star Game, and found himself all alone.
No catcher. No umpire. National League starting pitcher Adam Wainwright was 15 feet behind the mound when Jeter shouted, “Let’s go.”
But no one would listen, perhaps because no one could hear him as the roar from the Target Field crowd grew louder in appreciation for the retiring New York Yankees great.
By the time catcher Jonathan Lucroy and ump Gary Cederstrom made their way to the plate and Wainwright toed the rubber, the cheers turned into the familiar chant of “Der-ek Je-ter,” and Jeter responded with a double down the right-field line on the game’s second pitch.
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Make no mistake that the 85th Midsummer Classic belonged to Jeter, as the 2013 game belonged to his former teammate Mariano Rivera, even though Mike Trout was somewhat symbolically the game’s MVP as the American League prevailed 5-3.
“It was just a testament of what kind of player and what kind of person he is,” Texas Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish said. “It’s not just the numbers, but many things that he leaves behind. I think the fans really appreciate that.”
Jeter went 2 for 2, becoming the oldest player to have multiple hits in an All-Star Game. Wainwright initially told reporters that he wanted to throw Jeter a “couple pipeshots,” but insisted after the game that he wanted to get Jeter out.
Some latched onto the “pipeshots” comments as a controversy, but nothing should spoil the moments Jeter experienced.
“Pipeshot” or not, Jeter scored the game’s first run on a triple by Trout, the Los Angeles Angels star who many believe will become the new face of Major League Baseball once Jeter is retired. Trout came home as Miguel Cabrera launched a two-run homer two batters later.
Jeter, 40, departed in the fourth inning, as Alexei Ramirez trotted out to shortstop to replace him before the first pitch, and left to another standing ovation as the videoboard showed him as he hugged each of his American League teammates and coaches.
When he reached the end of the line for an embrace with manager John Farrell, who orchestrated the substitution, Jeter relented and gave one final curtain call before the crowd would take its seats again and play would resume.
“This All-Star Game is about everyone that’s here. It’s not about one particular person,” Jeter said. “I’ve always been uncomfortable, so to speak, when the focus is on me. I felt as though the focus should be on everyone that’s in the game.
“I thought it was great. I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was a wonderful moment that I’m always going to remember. The way the fans treated me, these are fans from all different teams, and the fans have always been respectful of me. And to have that moment in the All-Star Game was special.”
The Rangers’ contingent of Darvish and Adrian Beltre did nothing to hurt the AL team. Darvish worked a scoreless third inning, retiring Yasiel Puig, Troy Tulowitzki and Paul Goldschmidt in order on 14 pitches.
Included was a strikeout of Puig and a 57-mph curveball to Tulowitzki that made the crowd ooh and aah in Darvish’s first All-Star Game appearance in his third time on the team.
“I felt very honored, and I’m so glad that I was able to pitch in this game,” said Darvish, who will start Friday at Toronto as the Rangers open the second half.
Beltre, who leads the league with a .337 average, entered in the sixth inning and drew a walk. He handled his only chance at third base, well after Jeter had departed.
But simply being on the team with Jeter was an honor for Beltre.
“You’re talking about a guy who’s always been a huge example for baseball players,” Beltre said. “Knowing that this is going to be his last year and knowing he’s going to be a sure Hall of Famer and knowing this is going to be his last All-Star Game and me being a part of that is something that isn’t going to sink in the way it should right now.
“But when I retire, I can say I played with that guy on the same team in the All-Star Game. It’s going to be something I can tell my kids.”