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Saturday, July 9, 2011
Updated: July 11, 9:09 AM ET
Home fans revel in Jeter's amazing feat

By Rob Parker

NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter joined the 3,000-hit club with a bang Saturday.

Derek Jeter
The home run swing that Yankees fans will remember forever.

Jeter, the New York Yankees' captain, blasted a solo home run off Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price in the third inning. That made him the 28th player in major league history to amass 3,000 hits in a career. Even more importantly, Jeter became the first to do it while wearing a Yankees uniform.

The only thing better than Jeter's feat was that Yankees fans were on hand to witness the magical moment at Yankee Stadium.

Jeter wound up going 5-for-5 on his perfectly scripted day. His final hit -- a single up the middle -- scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning and gave the Yankees a 5-4 victory before a sellout crowd of 48,103.

"It's one of those special days," Jeter said. "There was a lot of pressure to do it here.

"I have grown up with these fans. I'm glad I had the opportunity to do it here. It wouldn't have been right to do it somewhere else."

For weeks, there was speculation about whether Jeter would be able to deliver the special moment in front of the home faithful. It really was up in the air. First, Jeter went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right calf. Then there was a three-game trip to Cleveland. No one wanted it to happen there.

And with good reason.

Baseball, more than any other sport, is about the fans. There's a special bond, because there are so many games, and because it's a game in which numbers and milestones are so important. Everybody knows how big 3,000 is.

There was a buzz outside the ballpark hours before the game. You truly got the feeling that something special was going to happen. There were Jeter No. 2 jerseys all over the stadium. Plus, the day was suitable for framing. It was 86 degrees and sunny at first pitch.

For sure, fans who had tickets for Friday night's game had to be disappointed. They thought they were going to see history. But the game was washed out.

On Saturday, though, fans knew they had a real shot to witness it live and be a part of the celebration after Jeter singled to left field in his first at-bat to reach 2,999. "It was absolutely special," said Yankees fan Michael Pathe of Smithtown, N.Y. "We bought the tickets a while ago and thought maybe it'll be the day he gets 3,000.

"Then it took for him to be on the DL and a rainout. It was special for him to be able to do it in front of the hometown fans that he's thrilled for years." Christian Lopez caught the homer in left field, about 12 rows back from the fence. Lopez, wearing a Yankees cap, gave Jeter the ball after the game. He was showered with gifts, including tickets and signed Jeter memorabilia. "I got to see history in the making," Lopez said in an interview played on the jumbo TV.

Kimberley Slater, originally from Pequannock, N.J., where Jeter was born, was overwhelmed with emotion. "I was crying," Slater said. "I know everybody in our hometown is going nuts today.

"It's amazing to be here."

Slater started getting both excited and nervous when she realized Friday's game was rained out. "I haven't been this nervous coming to a game since 12 years ago when I was coming to Game 4 of the World Series in 1999," said Slater, wearing a pinstriped Jeter No. 2 jersey. "I couldn't sleep last night.

"I was shaking when he first came up to bat and I still am."

Perhaps the second-luckiest fan in the park was David Adrian of Baton Rouge, La. Adrian, a student at LSU, said his all-time dream was to watch a game at Yankee Stadium. Months ago, he planned a trip to New York. He bought a ticket online and came to the game by himself.

"I've been a Yankee fan my whole life," said Adrian, wearing a fitted Yankees cap he bought two weeks ago. "I always wanted to come to Yankee Stadium. And for Derek Jeter to get number 3,000 -- a home run. I was shocked. I didn't expect him to do it. It was unbelievable."

And unforgettable for the fans, who were able to experience such a great moment.