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Hold on to Your Ticket Stubs—Derek Jeter Just Hit 3,000

A few months ago my mother-in-law told my husband and me not to make any plans for July 9 because she got us tickets to the Yankee game.  Yankees vs. Rays, Delta Skybox, Section 219, 1 p.m.  I looked forward to enjoying the game from better seats than we could usually afford, sitting directly below the radio booth and making faces at Suzyn Waldman, and possibly taking advantage of the inappropriately classy bar for a while.  What I didn’t anticipate at the time was witnessing history.  Derek Jeter, Yankee captain, was only two hits away from the immortal milestone of 3,000 hits.

I’ve been to some incredible Yankee games.  The Jim Leyritz walk-off home run in the very first American League Division Series in 1995.  The Yankees-Orioles brawl in 1998 that helped solidify that team as the greatest and most cohesive of all time.  And of course, Yogi Berra day, which also turned out to be David Cone’s perfect game.  These are the reasons why, when someone offers you tickets to a Yankees game, unless you’re meeting the Pope, you go.  You never know when something extraordinary is going to happen, when you will get a chance to be part of their illustrious history.

Fast-forward to Saturday.  On our D-train ride to the Stadium, we were fully aware what Mr. Jeter possibly had in store for us.  Fully aware that just one night earlier, throngs of hopeful fans had paid scalpers big bucks to be in the position we were in today, only to see their money get literally washed down the drain with the announcement of a rain-out.  That postponement, along with Jeter’s recent stint on the disabled list, proved to be serendipitous for us and anyone else holding a July 9 ticket.

Right before Jeter’s first at-bat to lead off the bottom of the first, my husband Dave said to me, “In order to make this game exciting, he’s gotta get a hit right now.”  We stood up, along with the other forty-something thousand fans, a sign of admiration that would set a precedent for every one of Jeter’s plate appearances for the rest of the day.  The Captain battled Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price–against whom his numbers are not exactly spectacular—to a 3-2 count amongst rhythmic cheers of “Der-ek Je-ter!”  Then—there it was!—a clean single to left field.  We erupted along with the crowd.  One down, one to go!

In the second inning we descended slightly from our elated state when Matt Joyce hit a home run off Yankee pitcher A. J. Burnett.  The Yanks were down, 1-0.  Hey, we still had a game to win here.  But there wasn’t time to wallow for long; Jeter came up again in the third.

Once again, Price and Jeter traded punches until it was 3-2.   Then came the curveball.  Next came the sound.  That perfect, piercing, thundering crack that indicates a home run.  One we don’t hear from Jeter too often lately.  Dave grabbed my arm.  “He just hit a home run,” he said matter-of-factly, right before the ball sailed over the left-field wall, presumably to make some lucky fan a very rich person.

If we had erupted before, now the place was Vesuvius.  I screamed for about ten minutes straight as Jeter made the slow trot around the bases.  Dave got puffy-eyed, and he didn’t even shed a tear on our wedding day.  There was an element in the air that enveloped everyone in the Stadium.  Fans became friends, high-fiving and hugging perfect strangers.  The Rays exuded class, tipping their caps and applauding Jeter just as much as the fans did.  We stayed on our feet for several minutes applauding.  Then, in true Jeter fashion, the game resumed.

We stood for the rest of Jeter’s at-bats, which seemed to be his good-luck charm.  He ended up going 5-5, including the game-winning hit in the bottom of the eighth.  Dave and I joked that now that the pressure was off to hit the magic number, maybe he would get a hit every at-bat and wind up with another 3,000.  And how apropos that Jeter ended the day with a perfect record, since Jeter’s modus operandi has always been to play his hardest and never settle for less than the best.

We always see Derek Jeter in interviews say he’s just trying to help the team, that individual numbers are not that important to him.  He certainly seemed to be in sync with that philosophy on Saturday.   Jeter’s 3,000th was not a superfluous double in a 10-0 blowout.  Without it, the Yankees would not have won the game, a game against one of their division rivals whom they could very well be up against in a pennant race.  And that, as John Sterling would say, is truly Jeterian.



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