It's Derek Jeter's birthday, and with it comes his annual gift from his buddies in the media -- a whole bunch of the kind of questions he hates.
But even though he turned 38 today, The Captain hasn't lost an inch off his fastball. He belted the first question of the day out of the park when a 50-something columnist from one of the local tabloids asked him, ''How does it feel to be getting older?''
Said Jeter: "You tell me. You're older than I am.''
But after delivering that jab, Jeter (sort of) warmed to the subject, answering questions for about seven minutes on his least favorite topics -- aging, encroaching retirement, and the possibility of passing Pete Rose on baseball's all-time hit list.
He acknowledged that it takes him a little more work to maintain his level of physical conditioning, and that at times, things hurt that never used to hurt when he was younger. "But when I feel good, I feel as good now (as before),'' he said. "Besides the little things, there’s no noticeable difference, I don’t think.''
When a reporter asked if he ever allowed himself to think about possibly passing Rose, whom he trails by 1,075 hits, Jeter said, "Not unless it can happen today. Can it happen today? I'm just trying to figure out how to get hits in this game. That's the way I've always been.''
Then he added this bit of wisdom: "I don’t come in here today thinking about what I did yesterday. I don’t come in thinking about what I’m going to do tomorrow. I take it one day at a time.''
Joe Girardi let on that some of Jeter's younger teammates have been teasing him about his age -- "They were giving him a hard time about his hair yesterday,'' the manager said -- and also acknowledged that in the 16 years he has known Jeter, he has changed somewhat.
"He's probably not quite as boisterous as he used to be in the clubhouse, and he's probably not as silly as he used to be,'' Girardi said. "But to me, he's the same guy who comes prepared to play every day and loves to play the game. The biggest difference is he's matured a little bit, but that's about it.''
Derek Jeter, silly?
"He used to sing in the clubhouse all the time,'' Girardi said. "It was just really enjoyable to be around him. He doesn't do all that anymore.''
Thankfully, Yankees PR man Jason Zillo jumped in at that point to add that Jeter was "still enjoyable to be around.''
"And he's still an instigator,'' Girardi said. "That he never lost.''