Welcome to the Derek Jeter All-Star Game

You can sense a shift in the excitement level when Derek Jeter approaches, walking up the tunnel to the dugout, spikes clacking on concrete. The photographers begin throwing elbows and jockeying for position, reporters ready their microphones, and even some of the players seem to jerk their heads around and pay closer attention.

It’s still the American League and the National League, playing for home field advantage in the World Series, which is a big deal. Yet this sure feels a lot like a midsummer celebration that is going to revolve around Jeter, something that he still doesn’t seem sure about. To Jeter, they’ve all been special.

“I’ve always enjoyed All-Star Games,” Jeter said. “This is a game that I truly have always looked forward to. I’ve appreciated the time that I’ve had here. It’s kind of difficult to say I’ll try to enjoy it more because I don’t know how much more I can enjoy it.”

The media crush around Jeter’s table this afternoon made Dellin Betances shake his head and laugh. A first-time All-Star, this is all new to Betances, but even someone in their first hours on the floor can tell that there’s a different energy here.

“Oh man. Watching him in his last year, this is amazing,” Betances said, with a laugh. “I’m honored to be here. It’s a great experience getting to meet these guys and know them a little bit. For me, just being here with Jeet’s last year, I’m honored to be here.”

This Midsummer Classic, marking Jeter’s 14th All-Star selection and his ninth fan-elected start, figures to be different than those that preceded it. Jeter will be in the spotlight from the first pitch on, with Red Sox manager John Farrell slotting Jeter to lead off for the American League.

“It’s a rare and unique opportunity,” Farrell said. “At the same time, we are able to celebrate a player who is not only a champion, but a guy that sets the bar that I think all players should aspire to.”

Here are some assorted reactions from All-Stars in both leagues about Jeter’s final trip to the Midsummer Classic:

Mike Trout, Angels: “I would just turn on the TV and knew he was the best player. Just the way he carried himself; he isn’t out there talking smack, he’s just letting the championships speak for him.”

Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: “It’ll be neat. Jeter’s been my role model, watching him as a kid, competing against him, seeing him from a young player, to now an older player playing in his last All-Star game, it’s going to be an honor. It’s something I’ll always remember, taking the field and playing against him.”

Johnny Cueto, Reds: “It’s amazing actually seeing him right now. I think he can still play. He wants to go home and be with his family. He deserves to retire. I think he’s one of the greats of all time.”
 
Victor Martinez, Tigers: “You know what, I think I’m going to cross the line a little bit, but I think Major League Baseball needs to do something with those kind of players like him. They don’t come around often, and he should go to the Hall of Fame as soon as the season’s over. I have a great amount of respect. He’s a guy I always looked up to. He plays the game the right way.”

Todd Frazier, Reds, on standing next to Jeter as a 12-year-old in 1998: “I’m just looking around like a kid in a candy store. I talked to him three years ago. We worked out together in Florida for a little bit. I said, ‘Do you remember that?’ He started laughing. He said ‘Holy cow, don’t tell anybody.’ That’s just the way he is. He’s a happy-go-lucky guy and I can’t wait to see his final All-Star game playing against him.”
 
Terry Francona, Indians manager: “That’s one of the things I’m looking forward to the most the next couple of days, to see how he is received. He embodies so much about what is good about game. To be able to watch him in person, I’m really looking forward to that. It’s kind of an honor to compete against him and his team because of the way he goes about things.”

Jon Lester, Red Sox: “It will be pretty cool. I don’t want to age him too much but watching him grow up, obviously the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry and having to deal with him all the time … I’m just glad he’s finally done so I don’t have to face him anymore. It will be a cool experience to be a part of this and he deserves everything that he gets and hopefully he won’t get hounded too much and he can actually enjoy it and have fun and really take away some memories from this for him.”

Max Scherzer, Tigers: “It’s going to be awesome. Last year I got the experience of being here with Mariano for his last All-Star Game, and that was an unbelievable experience. The All-Star Game is already cool enough, but to have a legend go out just made it even better. When that happens on Tuesday with Jeter, what he’s meant to this game is only going to make it that much more special for everybody involved – fans, players, everybody. We’ll always remember this.”

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: “He’s kind of been the face of the game for the past 18 or 20 years. It’s always good when you have a guy like that; LeBron in the NBA, we had Brett Favre, now there’s Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers (in the NFL). To have a guy like Jeter, he embodies all that baseball is. He’s a winner, he’s a great player. I can’t have any more respect for a guy. We’re going to miss him and it’s exciting to be here for his last All-Star Game.”

Robinson Cano, Mariners: “I can’t wait for that. He’s a guy I love. The way he was with me when I was in New York, he was a great teammate; one of the best, maybe the best ever that I’ve had. I can’t wait to be able to spend time with him today.”

Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: “It’s going to be great. I had the chance to do it last year with Mariano. It’s going to be a great experience. I look forward to today and tomorrow to talk to him, try to steal something from him so I can be a better baseball player.”

Ron Gardenhire, Twins manager: “He’s one of these guys who is what baseball is all about. He’s the probably the most professional guy. He’s in the community and has always handled himself really well. And also, he’s a winner. He’s brought championships to that baseball team over there and the whole package. He’s just a guy who makes everyone around him feel good. That’s what leaders do. We’ve had guys like that like Puckett. They always make everybody feel good around you.”

Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: “It will be very special, his last one is going to be awesome. Hopefully there is something dedicated to him and acknowledging him. I was able to play against him in Panama and see that whole atmosphere and just the respect. It’s unmatched. It will be cool to be on the same field again and be a part of it.”

Tyler Clippard, Nationals: “I was in the Minor Leagues at the complex there in Tampa, and as a young kid, probably about 18 or 19 years old — watching him walk around, very much in awe just because it’s Derek Jeter. I think I asked him for his autograph and he was very cordial, very nice about it. It made me feel like I was part of the team, even though I was just a Minor League kid.”


Henderson Alvarez, Marlins: “The fact that I get to be on the same field as Derek Jeter who is here for his last is something that makes me overjoyed, something that is important to me. I just anticipate enjoying it and soaking it all in.”

Mark Buehrle, Blue Jays: “It’s been cool. He’s owned me over his career, so I’m not too sad to see him go and get out of the game because it’s a hard at-bat.  Obviously what he has done for baseball over the course of his career, he’s the top guy in Major League Baseball on and off the field. So it’s going to be sad to see him go.”

 

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