Milestones naturally prompt reflection and celebration.
And when a milestone travels hundreds of feet, lingers for five slow-as-a-century seconds, serves as the centerpiece for a virtuoso performance, then it can evoke the sorts of reactions that immortalize the moment all the more.
No matter how Derek Jeter notched his 3,000th career hit, it would’ve gone down as one of his all-time accomplishments because of the round number’s majesty and exclusivity, and because of Jeter’s sterling reputation inside Major League Baseball and among Yankees fans. Joining this club via a home run on July 9, 2011 at Yankee Stadium, amidst a game he dominated, elevated this highlight into even rarer air.
Have you watched the YES Network’s broadcast of Jeter hit number 3,000? Directed by Jon Wilson and described by Michael Kay and John Flaherty, it serves as a master class in sports television, capturing a flurry of reactions to history happening in real-time. That Jeter proceeded to go 5-for-5, providing the game-winning, eighth-inning single in the Yankees’ 5-4 victory over the rival Rays, well, that just fit The Captain’s brand.
Over 10 years later, with Jeter set to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, five people shared their reactions from that day. Use the replay (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPazONtQ080, for you newspaper readers) as your guide.
0:14 David Price: The Rays pitcher served up Jeter’s third-inning homer to left field and, knowing it was gone, knelt quickly on the mound before springing up, a picture of frustration and energy.
“It was the only time in my life that I have ever done that,” Price said. “I can still see it. I can still my reaction. I can see (Rays catcher John) Jaso behind home plate. I can still see it very vividly.”
The left-hander, now pitching for the Dodgers, recalled: “The (second) game of our series got rained out. That was Jeremy Hellickson’s day. He was supposed to pitch, I’m pretty sure. Then I remember (Rays pitching coach Jim) Hickey coming in and he was like, ‘Hey, you’re still pitching tomorrow,’ and Hellickson was next to me and he was like, ‘Yes!’ I was like, oh my gosh. I just know what’s going to happen.”
Jeter entered the game with 2,998 career hits. He hit 2,999 in the first inning, a single to leftfield.
“I thought his 3,000th hit would kind of be his inside-out, line drive to rightfield,” Price said. “That’s not the way it went. It was a curveball that didn’t really do much of anything, and he hit a ball to left-center. Off the bat, I knew it. He rounded the bases and everybody came out of both dugouts, so I kind of just walked over to the visiting dugout on the third-base line and got some water and toweled myself out to let everybody pay him their respects.
“He was one of my favorite players growing up. At the time, if any player in baseball was going to hit their 3,000th hit and do it off of me, I would’ve wanted it to be Derek Jeter and for it to be in New York. It was a very special moment for him and Yankees fans and I was OK to be a part of that. I wish we would’ve won, but I think (correctly) he went 5-for-5. It just kind of sums up his career, that day.”
Price added, “There could be a movie about it at some point, I’m sure, and I would love to watch it.”
0:35 Jim Wolf: The home-plate umpire’s most distinctive moment came as Jeter approached home plate, his teammates awaiting him. Wolf is the plain-dressed guy calmly standing in fair territory, ensuring that Jeter touches the plate while not interfering in the festivities.
“It was kind of an overcast, humid day, I remember that. I knew it was a special day because I had to bring out the special authenticated balls (used for milestones),” Wolf said. “…I didn’t want to celebrate with him. I remember handing a ball to David Price after (Jeter) rounded the bases. (Price) goes, ‘What did I just do?’ I say, ‘You just made history.’
“Derek, he wasn’t really a power hitter. Talk about icing on the cake. For him to top it off as a home run – and then most of the home runs I saw from him were opposite-field home runs – for him to pull the ball over the left field wall, I was like, ‘That’s unusual.’ For him, to go 5-for-5, it was ridiculous. It was amazing, for sure. No doubt, that’s definitely in my highlight reel.”
00:48 Brett Gardner: Then a younger Yankee, the only remaining active Yankees teammate of Jeter, he stood on the outer edge of the celebratory circle and eventually hugged his team leader.
“It’s one of those moments, you kind of know it’s going to happen and you don’t really know what it’s going to be like, what that moment or that experience is going to be like,” Gardner said. “(I felt) excitement for him. And knowing how much work goes into him being able to have the career that he had, putting up the numbers that he put up and obviously there were only a select few that have played this game that have accomplished that, 3,000.
“Everybody on the team, I just remember being excited for Jete. and i also think it’s one of those things, I’ve never necessarily approached a milestone like that, but I’ve got to think it must be nice to get it out of the way and then move forward. What a special moment. I’ve had a lot of those that I’ve gotten to witness and be a part of over the last 13, 14 years and that definitely is right up there near the top.”
1:50 Alex Rodriguez: The worst of their tensions behind them by this juncture, A-Rod hugged his longtime teammate, cackled and shouted, loudly enough for the microphones to pick it up, “That’s unbelievable!”
“My perspective is a little different because I knew Derek when he was 16. We met at the University of Miami-Michigan (baseball) game,” Rodriguez said. “So to see the entire arc, it’s really appreciating it at a level that I think most can’t appreciate it. When I saw that home run, it’s so classic: The home run at home. The big fan (of Jeter) catches it. It was so symbolic for so many reasons. Not just the championships, but Doctor Jeter and Mrs. Jeter, the way they raised him. It was a special moment, more so than just the day. The respect (Jeter had), revered in the clubhouse and everyone in the organization. Great moment. I enjoyed it.”
Four seasons later, A-Rod joined Jeter and Wade Boggs as the only players to hit a home run for number 3,000.
3:27 Casey Kotchman: The Rays first baseman tipped his cap to Jeter as the icon rounded first.
“At first base, I’m thinking, ‘If he hits a single or something, I’ll go ahead and shake his hand, say congrats and get out of the way, let him do his thing with his teammates,’” Kotchman said. “He hits a ball in the seats. I thought, ‘All right, I’ll tip my cap, salute him.’ By the time he hits the ball and he’s taking the turn, you’ve got three seconds, four seconds. That was pretty cool. I went ahead and tipped my cap.
“It’s pretty cool. He’s had a whole list of (highlights). It doesn’t shock anybody that’s how that one went.”