Jeter's 36 years old ... and not counting

Derek Jeter isn't counting, even if turning 36, in baseball years, usually lands you on the wrong side of the hill.

The New York Yankees' captain lives his baseball life simply, so he looked at a reporter asking a 36th birthday question for a moment and made it clear by his answer he didn't want to go too deep into the subject.

"It is just another birthday, buddy," Jeter said.

But it is not just another birthday. It is 36, which means Jeter is closer to 40 than 30, much closer to the end than the beginning. Jeter has not slowed down much, but the future is hazy.

The questions about his contract and his long-term standing as the Yankees' shortstop are in the near future and Jeter has somewhat gone to the background. For whatever reason, Jeter is not around as much to the media.

He is usually at his locker for a few moments before the game, but there have been times when he hasn't shown up after the game, which is an odd sight for the leader, the Captain. When he hurt his heel last Saturday, Jeter chose not to talk before or after the game.

While Jeter is celebrated for all he has done, it is fair to look ahead and not just behind. Jeter has made it clear that he won't talk about his contract and the idea of not being a shortstop one day is also off-limits. But these are all issues now.

Even though Mariano Rivera, 40, is setting new personal-bests for retiring batters in order, 38-year-old Andy Pettitte is throwing like an All-Star and soon-to-be 39-year-old Jorge Posada is still hitting, the Core Four is closer to the finish line than the starting gun. It is true that no one knows where the tape is, because they keep moving it back.

Rivera and Pettitte, like Jeter, don't have contracts for next year. Posada has one more year left, but after that, who knows? And, of course, at some point even Rivera, Pettitte, Posada and Jeter will show their age.

Jeter downplaying the significance of 36 is not surprising. When Jeter turned 16 and got his driver's license, you could imagine him saying it was no big deal, buddy.

Jeter doesn't look back, which is probably one of the biggest reasons for his success. He focuses on today, not yesterday or even tomorrow. So asking him to find a good story about a birthday is like asking him about his favorite starlet -- he won't go into it.

"They are all special," Jeter said about his birthday, not Minka Kelly. "There is not one that is any more special than another."

But this one is significant. It is 36, not 26. We have seen the Core Four grow up before our eyes and now they are starting to grow gray.

"We're getting older," Pettitte said. "We've been doing it a long time. I'm getting real close to 40. That's real strange."

Jeter is 36. He is only focusing on today. He said he is not planning on doing anything special for his birthday.

Everyone else can celebrate all Jeter has done and wonder, what is next?

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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