Clay Buchholz has a chance to be the last pitcher Derek Jeter ever faces in Major League Baseball.
Buchholz is scheduled to pitch in the Boston Red Sox’s season finale Sept. 28 against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. It will be the final game in Jeter’s illustrious career, meaning there’s some extra incentive for Buchholz, who grew up idolizing the Yankees shortstop, to go the distance.
“It’s a game you try and go as deep as you can to be that last pitcher that he faces. I’ve definitely thought about that,” Buchholz recently told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. “You have to take care of everybody else before you get to that point. There is going to be a lot of stuff going on. It’s something that’s pretty neat to think about.”
Buchholz, who grew up in Texas, played shortstop during his early baseball days before eventually converting to a full-time pitcher. He first faced Jeter on April 16, 2008, and the two have had 31 head-to-head meetings since. None of their matchups will have been as magnified as Jeter’s final plate appearances a week from Sunday, but Buchholz certainly cherishes each opportunity to face his baseball hero.
“He was a guy I idolized growing up, playing shortstop,” Buchholz told Bradford. “It was pretty neat being in that stadium and pitching against the Yankees for the first time in your career.
“It was just him. I grew up and there were Yankees hats everywhere — Boston and Yankees. Everybody was either wearing a Boston hat or a Yankees hat where I grew up. He was the guy I watched the most. I liked the way he played the game.”
Buchholz understands he still needs to execute pitches and record outs. Otherwise, someone else could be called upon to be Jeter’s final opponent. But as both the Red Sox’s season and Jeter’s career wind down, the 30-year-old right-hander can’t help but look forward to a special opportunity.
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