Friday, September 19, 2014

Final Week for Jeter

Final week for Jeter

Final week for Jeter in the Bronx begins with a home run

By Rich Mancuso

BRONX, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 19- There was that moment in the sixth inning Thursday night at Yankee Stadium for Derek Jeter. He hit his first home run in the Bronx this season, in his last year as an active player. Yet we have always seen these moments from him over the years,

This home run, which gave the Yankees a 2-0 advantage over the Toronto Blue Jays, was not a milestone. But it was special because this was the beginning of the final week of baseball for Derek Jeter in the Bronx. The stadium crowd was waiting for a big hit and it came off a 3-1 pitch, from an R.A. Dickey fastball that went deep into the leftfield stands.

“First home run, final homestand, typical Jeter,” commented Yankees manager Joe Girardi after their 4-3 walk-off win over the Blue Jays. “He got his 3,000th hit here with the game on the line.”

That was a Jeter moment as there have been so many others over the years in the Bronx. And though this win does not mean the Yankees will be postseason bound in a few weeks, at least Jeter was able to hit another long ball at home, and he gets six more opportunities to hit another one in the Bronx before his farewell game next Thursday evening.

You know Girardi is starting to realize that a special player is no longer going to be in Yankees pinstripes next year.

“He just has the ability to do that," Girardi said about another Jeter moment. "I've always said, he’s the guy you want up with the game on the line, in big situations. He’s always had that ability."  

So there was Jeter again leading off the eighth inning in a 2-2 game. The enthusiasm of what was left of 34,279, many of course who came to see Jeter one final time, returned a bit when he made contact but flied out to center on a pitch from Brandon Morrow. It did not matter to the fans as they cheered for the captain, because this week it is all about Derek Jeter in the Bronx.

“Hey, it’s another game," Jeter said. "I’m trying not to think about it being the last homestand. We still have a week left. We’re trying to win games and I’m going to go out there and play hard like I’ve always done my entire career until we’re out of games."

“This is not an easy game to play,” he commented. “You’re going to have good stretches you’re going to have bad stretches, you’re going to have good years, you’re going to have bad years. Obviously this year up to this point hasn’t turned out the way you liked. Like I said I’m going to play hard til we’re out of games.”

Jeter was happy that they won the game. He is enjoying his last days in the Bronx and had a laugh or two when he got back in the dugout after the home run. We have not seen an emotional side of this Yankees icon as the final games approach, and perhaps it will be seen in seven days. And it did not matter that Jeter was caught in a first inning double play.

It would have been humiliating for a rookie when he broke for second on a 3-2 pitch, thinking that it was ball four, but the fans did not care. It was a Derek Jeter mistake, and after all of the great moments he has provided them in the Bronx, Jeter can be excused for making a mistake on the base paths.

When a reporter pointed out to Jeter that this was the first home run he hit in the Bronx there was a response: “Thank you,” he said in typical Jeter style, not sarcastic but living up the moment of his final days of playing baseball in the Bronx.

Jeter’s average dipped below .250 with an 0-for-28 drought, the second longest of his career. He still cares in the final days because baseball and wearing the Yankees uniform the past 20-years have always been something special.

Said Girardi, "I'm sure he's trying to soak this up as much as he can. It's really difficult to take your uniform off. When you're used to doing something for such a long time, it's difficult. He understands what's coming.”

And we all know that day is coming. But for another night it was a Derek Jeter moment that will be remembered like all the others.

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