NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York Yankees fans will have at least 80 more chances — hopefully — to say goodbye to Derek Jeter.
But the first had a special feel to it, thanks to some old friends.
Jeter received a rousing ovation as he was reunited with the other three members of the iconic “Core Four” — Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera — when he opened up Yankee Stadium for the final time in his career on Monday. Rivera threw the ceremonial first pitch to Jeter, while Pettitte delivered to Posada.
“I feel as though Yankees fans are the greatest fans in the world. And that’s no disrespect to any other team or any other sport. That’s just how I feel,” Jeter said prior to Monday afternoon’s game against the Baltimore Orioles. “You know, they get excited for opening day. This is a big deal here in New York. Us as players, it’s something that we look forward to, and like I said, we feel as though the season doesn’t officially begin until we have our home opener.”
The Yankees captain has announced he will retire at the end of the season and his farewell tour has already had stops in Houston and Toronto. But there’s no place like home, and his first game in the Bronx is a special one — even if he won’t admit it.
“It’s been pretty much like every other opening day,” Jeter said. “Opening day sometimes can be a rush. We got in last night and then you get here quickly, there’s a bunch of stuff in your locker and you’re trying to get organized and you have to get out and stretch. So at this point, at this moment, it feels like every other opening day.”
Jeter acknowledged he was nervous.
“I’ll have butterflies before this game starts,” he said. “But I do that all the time. I’ve just been pretty good at trying to control my emotions and not get too high, not get too low.”
Jeter will be the last member of the “Core Four” to retire. The quartet famously won five World Series titles together in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009.
“Those guys are like brothers to me,” Jeter said. “I think it’ll be a special moment, especially for a lot of the fans who grew up watching all four of us play, to see us all together once again.”
The national anthem was sung by Kelli O’Hara of “The Bridges of Madison County” on Broadway. Keeping to the stage theme, “Bullets Over Broadway” star James Moye will sing “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch.
Jeter passed Paul Molitor for eighth on the all-time list with hit No. 3,320 on Sunday.
The 39-year-old shortstop will be looking for more when he steps in the box against Baltimore’s Ubaldo Jiminez (0-1, 6.00 ERA), who was touched up for a couple of two-run home runs in his first start against Boston last week at Camden Yards.
“For me, the No. 1 priority is to be ready to play,” Jeter said. “I don’t know how I’m going to react. I don’t know how I’m going to feel. But my priorities have always been straight since I’ve gotten here, and they’re not going to change just because it’s my last year.”
The Yankees (3-3) are countering with Hiroki Kuroda (0-1, 3.00 ERA), who was solid over six innings in his season debut Wednesday in Houston, though he was the pitcher of record in the 3-1 loss.
The Bombers’ bats have come alive a bit since the first two games — both losses — and New York will be looking for its fourth win in five games Monday. Outfielder Brett Gardner hit the Yankees’ first home run of the season during Sunday’s 6-4 win in Toronto.
“I don’t think anybody bet on that,” Gardner said Sunday. “Good to get the first one out of the way. I’ve got a feeling we’ll hit a couple in New York.”
One thing’s for sure: the loudest cheers will be saved for Jeter.
“I think it’ll be a special day,” manager Joe Girardi said Monday. “I think they understand the magnitude of today and what he’s meant to the Yankees. And I think it’ll be quite a long standing ovation.”
“That’s probably gonna happen every time he steps to the plate,” Posada told the YES Network.
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