Derek Jeter hopes to help young stars

Updated: July 14, 2014, 11:15 PM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Derek Jeter remembers being at Coors Field in Colorado in 1998, not quite sure how to conduct himself and a bit in awe of one of his American League teammates, Cal Ripken Jr., who was 37 and about to play in his 16th All-Star Game.

"I was a little scared to approach him," Jeter said. "It was Cal Ripken. Even though I had played against him, I really hadn't had a chance to talk to him."

That was Jeter's first All-Star Game. Now, Jeter is that guy, a future Hall of Famer and the player more young players look up to than any other. While reflecting on his final All-Star Game Monday, Jeter said he plans on being as approachable as possible. Jeter, 40, has announced his retirement after this season. He was voted in by fans and will bat leadoff for the American League team Tuesday night, AL manager John Farrell announced Monday.

[+] EnlargeJeter
AP Photo/Kyndell HarknessYankees star Derek Jeter heads into his final All-Star Game as the face of the sport.

"I don't know what tomorrow's going to be like," Jeter said. "I'm coming here, playing in the All-Star Game and trying to win for our league, because someone in this room is going to benefit. I don't go into things with expectations. I'm looking forward to playing the game and I've pretty much stopped right there. I think I've been pretty good at tempering my emotions over the course of my career."

One of the frequently asked questions at Monday's media availability was, "Who will become the face of Major League Baseball when Jeter retires?" Most players found that a difficult question to answer, because Jeter has won multiple championships, played at a consistently high level throughout a long career and retained an untarnished reputation off the field. It's pretty much the complete package.

Yasiel Puig, speaking in Spanish, called Jeter the "conscience of baseball." Mike Trout, a New Jersey native who modeled himself after Jeter growing up, said, "You don't hear him out there ragging on anybody. He just stays humble and wins championships."

Said Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, "It's hard to fill the role that Jeter's done, being the face. He personifies everything that's good about baseball."

Jeter, who is hitting .272 with two home runs, 25 RBIs and 31 runs scored, is followed in the AL lineup by Trout, Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano and Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista hits fifth for the AL, followed by Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson and Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez.

Adam Wainwright, who will start the game for the National League, said he considers it an honor to finally get to face Jeter.

"I have been in the big leagues for nine years. I've never faced him," Wainwright said. "I'm very excited about it, just to say I faced the best. And he is undoubtedly one of the best to ever play his position, one of the greatest Yankees of all time."

Told of Wainwright's comments, Jeter joked that he wasn't exactly dying to get to hit off Wainwright, who is 12-4 with a 1.83 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals and has one of the game's most devastating curveballs.

"I've always enjoyed competing against those guys, including some of the best pitchers that have ever played," Jeter said. "It's not like you're running to the bat rack, but I've always enjoyed competing against those guys."

Tuesday night will be Jeter's 14th All-Star Game. A career .311 hitter, he has won five Silver Slugger awards and five Gold Gloves, not to mention batting .308 with 111 runs scored in 158 post-season games.

Like Ripken and his New York Yankees teammate Mariano Rivera, who pitched the eighth inning in his final All-Star Game in 2013, Jeter no doubt will be honored by players and fans in various ways during Tuesday night's game. Rivera was named the game's MVP at Citi Field. If Jeter wins such an honor, he would be just the fifth player to have multiple All-Star Game MVP trophies.

Jeter is hoping he can be a positive influence on a younger player at the game. Who knows, perhaps the next Derek Jeter is here, a little intimidated to approach the current one.

"I hope no one's scared to say anything to me," Jeter said. "I try to be as personable and approachable to as many people as I can."

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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