MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Derek Jeter’s final All-Star Game wasn’t half bad.
It started with a loud and long round of applause during player introductions and a louder and longer round when he made a very slick stop of an Andrew McCutchen ground ball in the top of the first. On a shot to his left, mind you, which is a play Jeter has not always made well. He made it well tonight, however, and even though he couldn’t quite get the speedy McCutchen at first — no one could, most likely — it was a very nice beginning to his game.
The nice beginning continued in the bottom of the first when he came to bat to a longer and louder round of applause. N.L. catcher Jonathan Lucroy and the home plate umpire took several steps back to give Jeter some time and the spotlight. But as is always the case with Jeter, he’d rather get down to business. He smiled and thanked the crowd, but he also looked back at Lucroy several times as if to say “Get your ass back in that box and let’s get on with this, will ya?” He wasn’t annoyed, but his demeanor was certainly consistent with what he’s been saying all week: he’s here for a baseball game, not a tribute.
Jeter then promptly laced a double off Adam Wainwright and came around to score on Mike Trout’s triple. Jeter is not a young man. He is not the player he once was. But on this night he looked like he could do this forever. He came up again in the bottom of the third and dropped a bloop single down the first base line that fell in between Paul Goldschmidt and Yasiel Puig. He took second on a wild pitch but was stranded there to end the inning.
Then: the departure. Jeter took his position at shortstop to start the top of the fourth. But the game paused and Alexei Ramirez came running out to relieve him. They hugged at short, and Jeter jogged off the field to the largest ovation of the night, with “New York, New York” playing over the P.A. More hugs in the dugout and, finally, a curtain call. This whole process took close to five minutes. The applause did not stop. It didn’t even flag.
Jeter came into the league with a bang nearly 20 years ago. He’s certainly making a hell of an exit.