It felt like post season play. The small market Cream City Nine was taking on the mighty New York Yankees…the Bronx Bombers…the Gotham Nine…the biggest of the big major league baseball teams in the world. Arguably one of the best know sports brands on the planet, the Yanks stride into a city, heads held high, looking smart and comfortable within their skins as the legends they represent on today’s playing fields are. No team has won more World Series Championships than the men in pinstripes. They are so great they may have invented pinstripes.
When they come out before the game, there are no pinstripes on the grey traveling uniforms and no names on their jerseys. ‘You can’t tell a player without a program was not invented by the Yanks because everyone knows who the players are. There are way more people than normal in the stands, showing up for BP. These are not the Pittsburgh Pirates. These are the real deal, honest to God, Yankees. They don’t even need a city locater in front of their name on their website (www.yankees.com). Everywhere you look there is a story: Mark Teixeira, 34-year-old big first baseman and former All-Star who is back after missing most of last season. He’s bigger than you think. Out jogs Ichiro. At 40 years old, he doesn’t need a last name as he is one of the greatest baseball players of this generation who was in every All Star game for a decade. Batting .373 this season and fewer than 300 hits away from 3,000, strangely he is relegated to pinch running roles which give a whole new meaning to steal a base when he is on, or an occasional Sunday start. There’s Jacoby Ellsbury, the 29-year-old former Boston center fielder and All-Star, jogging in the outfield. Isn’t that Alfonso Soriano, a former seven-time All-Star, taking ground balls? CC Sabathia, 33-year-old former hero of Milwaukee and a six-time All-Star, is taking BP. Welcome back to the Senior Circuit, CC. Brian McCann, 30-year-old former Braves’ All-Star, walking out, swinging a bat ready to go into the cage. Walking back to the dugout is Carlos Beltran, 37-year-old, 8 time All-Star, now playing right field for his fourth team. Then, last out of the dugout comes The Captain…Derek Jeter. In his farewell trip, and always a crowd favorite, he comes out just as he always has with his head held up high, jogging out to short to take a few grounders. He is the man. Even coming into the dugout to grab his bat, there is a regal kind of presence.
Then, out in the bullpen, there is the Master of Hyogo, Masahiro Tanaka, who was 24-0 in his homeland, and is still perfect in the Bigs too, throwing bullets. There is a reason he hasn’t lost sometime since 2012. His control is perfect. His demeanor is perfect. His presence is perfect. Imagining him anywhere else in major league baseball is imaginable. He is a Yankee.
It is that kind of night. The Yankees are in The Keg.
When Jeter comes to the plate, as will happen when CC Sabathia comes to the pate the next day, these Midwestern folks who know their baseball and understand the moment like few others in the game, rise and give him a standing ovation. A STANDING OVATION for an opposing player. In all of baseball, that is unheard of. But there is a reason. Derek Jeter is one of the great baseball players that has ever lived. And, he has represented his sport like few other professionals in the history of the game. Here is a guy who even warns some guy who runs out to short during the game to ask for a hug and Derek Jeter just says to the fan near his idol, “You’re going to get in trouble. “And then he repeated that the fan wanted a hug, and Jeter said, ‘Look out.’, just before security guards grabbed the guy and took him out of the ballpark. What kind of a guy is Derek Jeter?
He is the Lou Gehrig of our day.
He is the Captain of the Yankees.