CHICAGO -- Derek Jeter will get most of the attention during the current four-game series on the South Side, but the New York Yankees mainstay will be showing his own admiration this week for somebody in the opposite dugout.
“I respect his game, how he handles himself,” Jeter said of Konerko before Thursday’s game. “He’s had a lot of success in his career and a lot of success against us in his career. You enjoy competing against guys like that. I’ve gotten to know him a little bit throughout the years and he’s had a wonderful career. I’ve always respected him.”
Konerko was equally respectful of Jeter’s career that spanned 20 seasons.
“He plays the toughest position in the toughest city to play in, so I don’t think anybody has had a tougher road to hoe as far as all the stuff you have to deal with on and off the field, and he’s done it for 20 years as good as you could possibly do it, and won and done well personally, statistically,” Konerko said.
“For me, every player knows the stuff you have to deal with and has an insight – not to his level – you kind of know what different guys have to deal with. And he’s had to do deal with the most and done it the best, with the most class, so for me, he’s No. 1 in my book when it comes to all that stuff. It’s definitely appreciated by myself and the players in the game.”
Unsure of what he was going to do after last season ended, Konerko is appreciative to end his career with one last season on his terms. Jeter isn’t necessarily getting the same kind of closure, at least not now anyway.
“It sounds funny, I know this is my last year, but I don’t ever come here saying, ‘This is my last time coming here,’” Jeter said. “You’re coming here saying you want to try to win games. I’m sure that might be a little different once you get toward the end of the year but it’s kind of hard to sit around and think about something being over when it’s still four or five months away from now.”
The series will also afford Jeter the chance to see former teammate Robin Ventura manage, something that hasn’t been all that odd to see.
“Obviously I’ve never played for him but his temperament is perfect,” said Jeter, who teamed with Ventura from 2002-03 with the Yankees. “He’s never too high, never too low and he never seems to panic and he understands the daily grind. He was a great teammate. I enjoyed getting to know him.
“I played against him with the Mets, White Sox and he was the same every day. That’s what you need I think to do this every day. It’s a game of a failure. The way he was able to stay the same every day, not everyone can do that.”
Ventura also learned much more about Jeter when they were teammates.
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for him,” Ventura said. “You get more understanding of it when you play with him and see what he goes through on a daily basis, the pressures and also how successful he’s been. It’s just how he interacts with his teammates or the fans. Just his presence has been the most impressive. I have the utmost respect for what he’s done. He’s always been a class guy.”