The kid had just blown an easy play in center field and he came back to the dugout with his head down. And the first hand that landed on his shoulder, the consoling hand, belonged to Derek Jeter…
Jeter had already hit three times, in fact had led off each inning in the privilege afforded major leaguers who are doing a rehab assignment in the minor leagues, and now it was his turn to hit again.
“Why don’t you go up there and hit first this inning?,” Jeter asked the kid.
“Maybe you’ll hit better with a guy on base,” cracked a sideline kibitzer named Reggie Jackson.
“At least I won’t feel so bad if I make an out,” Jeter replied. He had grounded out in each of his three at-bats so far.
“I think I’ll try to hit the ball on the ground this time,” he said to Jackson, smiling wryly.
Meanwhile, the kid took Jeter up on the offer, and on the first pitch he saw, cracked a home run over the left-field fence.
“You see? You see?” Jeter shouted. “I know what I’m doing.”
Then Derek Jeter stepped into the batter’s box for the fourth time—and grounded out to third.
Thus ended the Yankee captain’s day as a Scranton RailRider on Saturday. He will remain a member of that squad, or in fact, any minor-league squad the Yankees are sending out between now and whenever it is determined Jeter is ready to return to playing shortstop every day for the big club… hanging over his head is the knowledge that the Yankees are planning to start him off on the DL, and hanging over the Yankees’ heads is the knowledge that all season long, they may be carrying a shortstop who can no longer bear the load of playing every day…. Jeter, of course, is still insisting he will play Opening Day, and is clearly not happy about having to spend the rest of his spring playing in minor league games, even if there is less than a week of training camp left…
... he seemed proudest of his decision to let young Jose Toussen bat in front of him, and the results it produced. “I knew he was gonna hit a home run. I could see it in his eyes,” Jeter said. “I’m a pretty good manager, too.”