Back in 2006, during the inaugural World Baseball Classic, Derek Jeter came up to the plate in a big spot of a close game. Sitting on my sofa at home, rooting for Team USA, I was overwhelmed with this strange, unrecognizable feeling of… confidence. Typically, when No. 2 of the New York Yankees dug in to the batter’s box at a crucial moment, I was filled with dread, since he routinely broke my heart by coming through with clutch hits against my favorite teams (e.g., Mets, Orioles, anyone not the Yankees). But at that moment, wearing the USA across his chest, he was the only person you wanted up in that situation, and for once, I got to root for him and not pray against him. It felt weird… but pretty great.
Tonight, in Minnesota, Jeter will be starting at shortstop and batting lead-off for the American League in his 14th and final MLB All-Star game. He’s retiring at the end of the year, and at 40, his classic inside-out swing is a tad slower than it was in his prime, when he led the Yankees to four World Series titles in five years between 1996 and 2000. But after 20 years in the bigs—in which he smacked more than 3,400 hits, dated a chorus line of actresses and supermodels, and became the poster-boy for New York sports that Mantle, Namath, Gifford, and DiMaggio had all once been—I might have to suck it up and root for him again.
In a new tribute video from Nike, Jeter steps to the plate in Yankee Stadium for what could be the last time. As the voice of the late Yankees announcer Bob Sheppard introduces No. 2, a broad collection of New York celebrities and sports all-stars tip their hats to the sure-thing Hall of Famer. Yankee haters are allowed to clap.
How they got Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester to participate, I have no idea—Jeter has a .338 career average against the ace lefthander. The MLB All-Star Game is on Fox tonight at 8 pm ET.