Commentary

Wonderfully scripted All-Star moment

Derek Jeter collects two hits, draws rousing ovation; Mike Trout earns MVP honors

Updated: July 16, 2014, 4:06 AM ET
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- They stood next to each other in the on-deck circle at 7:28 p.m., on a Tuesday evening that neither of them will ever forget.

Derek Jeter and Mike Trout. This was their night. This was their moment. This would be an evening when baseball's past, present and future were about to collide -- and plop directly into their laps.

But at 7:28 p.m., Central Daylight Time, neither of them could possibly have known the spectacle that was about to unfold at Target Field. So they stood there, watching Adam Wainwright throw his final warmup pitches, and began plotting out their own script for the first inning of the 85th All-Star Game.

"He told me he was going to get a hit," Trout told ESPN.com, more than three hours later. "Well, he didn't exactly tell me he was going to get a hit. He just said that if it was there, first pitch, he was going to be swinging."

Instead, shockingly, it would take Derek Jeter two pitches, not one, to slice a leadoff double into the right-field corner -- off an Adam Wainwright fastball that either was or wasn't grooved, pipe-shot or hand-delivered down the middle of the plate, depending on which conspiracy theory you buy into most.

But whatever. As Jeter pulled into second base and soaked in the cheers, Trout could only gaze and shake his head over his idol's never-ending ability to keep turning his life into a major motion picture.

[+] EnlargeDerek Jeter
Elsa/Getty ImagesPlaying in his 14th and final All-Star Game, Derek Jeter made his exit in the fourth inning to a stirring standing ovation at Target Field.

And as this unreal scene unfolded before him, just one thought could possibly have popped into Trout's head. Yep. That one:

"I had to drive him in," he said.

Which Trout then did -- c'mon, of course he did -- by splattering an RBI triple off the right-field fence. To kick off a three-run first inning. And to jump-start the American League toward a 5-3 victory that would forever be remembered as the Jeter & Trout Show. Or was that the Trout & Jeter Show?

It was Jeter who would go 2-for-2, in three memorable innings, making him the oldest player ever to get two hits or more in any All-Star Game ever played.

It was Trout who would win an All-Star MVP award, by tripling in the first, doubling in the fifth and joining two luminaries named Ted Williams and Ken Griffey Jr. as the only men ever to get two extra-base hits in an All-Star Game before their 23rd birthday.

But by doing what they did, on the same stage, on the same night, they also sent us a message.

These are the gifts sports gives us -- when past meets present meets future, almost all in the same instant.

We get Jeter's can-you-believe-this All-Star farewell, mildly tainted as it may have been by Wainwright's groove-gate scandal, to remind us of why we spent this night celebrating one of the greatest shortstops who ever lived.

And we get to behold the burgeoning greatness of The Next Big Thing, with a Trout-ian performance that just whet our appetite for whatever it is this guy has planned for us for about the next 20 years.

And it happens exactly where nights like this are supposed to happen. In an All-Star Game that exists, when you get right down to it, not to decide home field in the last week of October, but to stage these sorts of shows. And to preview where this sport is going at the same time it's giving you goosebumps as you savor where it has been.

There was no holding back those goosebumps Tuesday night, by the way, whatever you thought of Wainwright's role in helping Jeter fill up the box score. Not when you had a man walking toward home plate to lead off the bottom of the first inning -- and found himself unable to step into the box and get this game moving, no matter how hard he tried.

That just wasn't possible -- seeing as how the starting pitcher (Wainwright) was standing behind the mound, without his glove, applauding. And the catcher (Jonathan Lucroy) was refusing to get down in his crouch. And every defender standing behind them was too busy taking in the moment to actually play baseball.

"Adam had his glove on the mound," Jeter said. "I tried to tell him to pick it up, let's go. But he took a moment and let the fans give me an ovation, which I will always remember."

[+] EnlargeJeter/Ramirez
Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY SportsThere's no replacing Jeter, but that's what Alexei Ramirez did in the top of the fourth inning.

By the end of this night, Wainwright would somehow become a villain in some people's eyes, for not pretending this duel was happening on Oct. 15, not July 15. But he understood exactly what was happening as Jeter strode toward home plate -- and he was going to do his part to let it resonate for as long as possible.

"I just wanted him to enjoy it," Wainwright said. "I thought that was his moment, and I wanted to stay as far away from it as possible. I thought all the attention should be on him, and ... I didn't even want to get near that mound. I put my glove up and backed as far back as I could, almost to second base. I was saying, 'Dude, I'm not going anywhere until this ovation starts to die down.'"

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just what he should have done. Now exactly what happened after that, between these two men, is something we may never fully know. But even if Wainwright was in fact making sure Jeter got a pitch he could put a Jeter-esque swing on in that first inning, one competitor who was not offended was Jeter himself.

"If he grooved it, thank you," Jeter said. "You still have to hit it. I appreciate it if that's what he did. Thank you."

It was only the third extra-base hit of Jeter's otherwise-illustrious All-Star career -- and his first since a 2001 home run off Jon Lieber. And you may have noticed that in this, his final season, he hasn't been what you'd call an extra-base-hit machine. He'd doubled precisely once, in fact, in his previous 102 plate appearances coming into this game.

But he wasn't giving back this one. And he seemed just as happy with his third-inning bloop single into the Bermuda Triangle in short right field, off the Reds' Alfredo Simon, who told earwitnesses later he was definitely trying to get the guy out.

It was Jeter's 13th hit in 27 All-Star at-bats through the years. And that, if you're calculating along at home, works out to a .481 batting average over 14 All-Star games -- the second-highest average in the history of this event, trailing only Charlie Gehringer (10-for-20, .500) among players who got at least 15 All-Star at-bats.

Asked, given all that, if he was sure he didn't have a few seasons left in him, Jeter laughed.

"I told you guys before," he said. "I'm not retiring at the end of the year because I don't think I can play. It's just, the time is right."

In a couple of months, he'll go trotting off the field forever. But on this night, we got a sneak preview, via his opening farewell in the top of the fourth inning.

One second, he was out there, taking warmup flips from first baseman Miguel Cabrera. The next, he heard the crowd buzzing and turned to find Alexei Ramirez trotting out to short to ease him out of the All-Star amphitheater for the final time.

And what made that scene extra moving, Jeter said, was that he had no idea it was coming.

"It was a wonderful moment that I am always going to remember," Jeter said. "I appreciate John doing that for me. But it was a special moment, and it was unscripted. And like I said, I was unaware of it."

Every player on both teams froze in place and applauded. Sinatra sang "New York, New York" on the PA. The thunder rocked down from the seats for well more than a minute. Giancarlo Stanton, the next hitter, refused to go anywhere near the batter's box.

And as Jeter jogged off, waving his cap, the emotion swept through one player on that field in particular:

A 22-year-old Jeter fan named Mike Trout.

[+] EnlargeMike Trout
Scott Rovak/USA TODAY SportsMike Trout, batting second behind Derek Jeter, went 2-for-3 with a triple, double and two RBIs and was named All-Star Game MVP.

It was a moment that gave him "chills," Trout said. And "goosebumps." And a torrent of thoughts and feelings he was still trying to digest hours later.

"Just the emotions, everything going through your head," he said. "Seeing him running off, just thinking about, 'You're not going to see him play anymore.'"

This was the guy Mike Trout grew up watching, telling himself that "if I ever get the chance to get to the big leagues, that's how I want to play." And then there he was, on this field, as That Guy was trotting, almost literally, into the sunset. On a night when Trout was on the road to becoming the second-youngest All-Star MVP of all time (barely trailing the then-22-year-old Junior Griffey, 1992 edition). Who writes these scripts?

But two decades from now, Trout said, it won't be his first-inning RBI triple that he will remember about this night. And it won't be the double he chopped past Aramis Ramirez's glove in the fifth, to drive in what turned out to be the winning run.

And it may not even be his prize for winning the All-Star MVP award -- that new Corvette he'll be tooling in around the streets of Millville, New Jersey, when the offseason rolls around.

Nope, the memory, Trout said, "is just being part of something special, Jeter's last All-Star Game. It means a lot to me, watching him growing up and now being a part of it."

Jeter tried his best to lobby against the way-too-convenient plot line that this was the night when he passed the Face of Baseball torch to the Next Jeter, saying: "Let Mike be Mike. I don't think people have to necessarily appoint someone to a particular position."

But The Captain will have to lobby harder than that. And especially on this night. When a baseball game in Minnesota summed up, in three entertaining hours, not just what Derek Jeter has meant to this sport for all these years, but where Mike Trout is about to propel it.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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