BOSTON — Fenway Park is oozing with respect.
Derek Jeter, whose final game at Yankee Stadium ended perfectly, plans to serve as the New York Yankees’ designated hitter at some point this weekend against the Boston Red Sox. Jeter’s decision to play — rather than end his career with Thursday’s walk-off heroics — was centered on his respect for the Red Sox organization and its fans, according to the longtime Yankees shortstop. It’s clear the admiration goes both ways.
“I think it’s perfect,” Red Sox slugger David Ortiz said before Friday’s game of Jeter ending his career in Boston. “This rivalry is a rivalry that, what can I tell you? The fans are involved in it, but it’s not like the fans personally hated him. It was like, ‘This is my team, that is yours.’ But everybody has much respect for Jeter. Everybody knows he’s the face of baseball. Everybody would love to watch him play.”
Jeter, who broke into the majors in 1995, has spent his entire 20-year career in pinstripes, carving out a huge role in the storied Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. The future Hall of Famer earned five World Series rings, including four in his first five full seasons, and will hang up the cleats as one of the most respected players in Major League Baseball history.
“He did whatever it took. That’s why he has so many World Series rings,” said Ortiz, who has captured three titles with Boston since joining the club before the 2003 season. “You’re talking about a player that’s hard to find and you don’t see many Derek Jeters out there.”
There might never be another Jeter, and it’s largely because his contributions and his legacy extend well beyond the diamond. While his championship success, 14 All-Star selections and five Gold Glove Awards are impressive, his character and integrity are the real separators in today’s world of professional sports.
“He’s a professional — a guy that has had a heck of a career,” Ortiz said. “Very special guy that through the years, he taught all of us how to do the right thing. We’re going to miss him.”
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia shares many qualities with Jeter. He’s passionate, hard-working and considered by most to be one of baseball’s “good guys.” But even Pedroia can’t help but marvel at Jeter’s career.
“He competes. In big markets, there are things everybody gets caught up in. He cares about winning. That’s most important,” Pedroia recently told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. “He puts the team in front of himself and tries to win games. It doesn’t matter what numbers say or what anything says. He’s there for his teammates and trying to win games. That’s what I admire the most.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell was on the American League All-Star Game coaching staff in 2008, one year after Boston defeated the Colorado Rockies for the franchise’s second World Series title in four years. Farrell, who was Boston’s pitching coach under manager Terry Francona at the time, spent several days among some of baseball’s brightest stars. One player stood out.
“When (Jeter) walks into a room, there’s a presence about him that you get a feel for and a sense of right away,” Farrell said Thursday. “It’s certainly not a standoff type of presence, but he makes people’s heads turn when he walks into a room.”
Jeter, a man who spent two decades trying to prevent the Red Sox from reaching the top, certainly turned heads when he arrived at Fenway Park on Friday. The farewell tour’s final destination also is one of the most appreciative.
Photo via Darren McCollester/Getty Images