BOSTON — “Funny how things have changed,” Derek Jeter remarked Friday amid the cacophony of camera shutters at Fenway Park.
The New York Yankees shortstop was about to begin the final series of his career at the home of his greatest rivals — a ballpark that has booed him mercilessly at times throughout his 19-year career.
Those boos have subsided some over the last decade, however, and it’ll be a shock if Jeter’s at-bats are met with anything but respectful applause from the Fenway Faithful this weekend.
“If there’s anywhere to play besides New York, I guess it’s only fitting that it’s here in Boston because of all the games that I’ve played here, the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees,” Jeter said before Friday’s series opener. “If you can’t do it in New York, this is the next-best place.”
Fenway wasn’t always kind to the Captain, though. Jeter recalled one instance of having to walk past a pack of Boston fans before the 1999 MLB All-Star Game.
“I thought they were going to kill me,” he joked.
The heated rivalry reached a high point during the teams’ two epic American League Championship Series in 2003 and 2004, but when the Red Sox finally broke through and snapped their World Series drought, some of that vitriol disappeared. The jeers Jeter heard thereafter weren’t quite as loud (though Alex Rodriguez probably can’t say the same).
“I think after they won, it sort of — I don’t want to say they softened up, but I think they’ve become a little bit kinder,” Jeter said. “And thank you for that.”
Jeter won’t play Friday night, and he’s said that his shortstop-playing days are over. But unlike Mariano Rivera, who chose not to play after his Yankee Stadium sendoff last season, Jeter plans to at least make a cameo at Fenway before hanging up the spikes. The fans deserve it, he said, even after his final game in pinstripes ended in storybook fashion.
“No, my plan was always to play here,” Jeter said. “I wanted to take something from New York, that’s why I said it was my last time playing shortstop. I have the utmost respect for the Red Sox organization and their fans here. I would love to come and play here one last time.”
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