MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Derek Jeter was a huge hit from the very start in his final All-Star game.
Batting leadoff for the American League, the 40-year-old shortstop for the New York Yankees soaked in an ovation that lasted more than a minute at Target Field, then seized the moment Tuesday night by hitting a double.
Jeter soon crossed the plate for the game’s first run.
The double was one of Jeter’s classic, opposite-field liners to right. He singled to right in his next at-bat, raising his All-Star batting average to a robust .481 — 13 hits in 27 at-bats.
Jeter also showed off in the field. In the top of the first, he made a slick, diving stop on Andrew McCutchen’s sharp groundball up the middle.
Jeter got to his feet and fired an on-target throw to first base, but the fleet-footed McCutchen was too fast, beating it out for a leadoff single. McCutchen smiled and pointed at Jeter, who grinned at the reigning NL MVP.
This was the 14th time Jeter was picked as an All-Star. He’s set to retire after this season.
When Jeter stepped to the plate, the crowd gave him a 63-second ovation, prompting him to wave, nod and tip his helmet several times.
NL starter Adam Wainwright, who spoke the day before about how proud he would be to pitch to Jeter on this memorable occasion, backed up toward second base and left his glove on the mound so he could clap along with everyone else at the ballpark.
With a wide smile, Jeter shouted a few words toward the St. Louis ace, apparently encouraging him to get the inning going.
Fittingly, a recording of late Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard’s famous monotone introduction was played as he walked up for his at-bat with thousands of smartphones snapping away in the seats: “Now batting, for the Yankees, the shortstop, number two, Derek Jeter, No. 2.”
The tribute came right after a national television audience tuned to Fox saw a Nike commercial that featured the likes of Michael Jordan, Jay-Z and Rudolph Giuliani paying their respects to Jeter.
Right after that, he doubled into the right-field corner on the second pitch, drawing cheers from his mom and dad in the stands.
In the third, Jeter took Cincinnati ace Alfredo Simon to a full count and singled to right.
Jeter was the first player to ride down the red carpet that was rolled out for downtown parade of the game’s greats, from their hotel to the ballpark about 10 blocks away.
The hearty ovations started there, while Jeter rode with his parents and other family members, who came to Minneapolis for the event.
“I think everyone WANTS it to sink in that this is my last,” Jeter said in the clubhouse before batting practice, “but I’m just trying to enjoy it while I’m here and stop thinking about this is the last one.”
Earlier in the day, Commissioner Bud Selig said Major League Baseball has been discussing ways to formally honor Jeter as he enters the final few months of his career.
“If you were sitting two decades ago and you said, ‘Boy, this is a guy I want to be the face of baseball and be what this generation will remember,’ you couldn’t have written a script like this,” Selig said. “He is just remarkable.”