Monday, July 2, 2012

Interview: New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter


The consummate pro will be leading the American League into this year’s All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium July 10 although when Derek Jeter made his first trip to Kansas City this spring, he wouldn’t admit what everyone knew, that he would be voted the starter for the seventh straight year and on to the team for the 13th time.

“There are a lot of good shortstops,” Jeter said.

None with the credentials of the Yankee captain, however. A runaway leader in shortstop voting with 6.6 million votes, Jeter has already cemented his name in the Hall of Fame by becoming the first Yankee to reach the magic 3,000 hit mark in a career untouched by steroids or drugs. With his 3,185th hit this past week, he moved past Cal Ripken for 13th on the all-time hit list.

He’s also the first Yankee to be named the All-Star Game’s most valuable player when he rapped out three hits in leading the AL to a 6-3 win in Atlanta in 2000, a feat that was not lost on Jeter’s manager at the time, Joe Torre.

“With all the history that has been written by a lot of Yankees because you know Mickey Mantle made it every year and all of the great Yankees like DiMaggio, it’s hard to believe,” said Torre.

With that in mind, here’s 10 minutes with Jeter when the Yankees were in Kansas City May 3-6.

Q: You’ve been selected to 12 All-Star games. Does it ever become old hat?

Jeter: No, not at all, it’s an honor, a privilege, an opportunity to get to go. You really appreciate it because there’s a lot of great players in the game. It’s something every player wants to be a part of.

Q: Are there any games that particularly stand out?

Jeter: There’s a lot of them. The first one; the one in Atlanta. The one in Yankee Stadium was special.

Q: Some players in the past have said they would prefer having three days off. Has that ever occurred to you?

Jeter: Everyone could use the rest but no, if you’re healthy, it’s something everyone enjoys being a part of.

Q: You did miss last year’s game in Arizona shortly after getting your 3,000th hit.

Jeter: People fail to remember that I was injured at the time and had announced about a week before the 3,000 hits that I wasn’t going to take part in the All-Star Game and no one said anything about it. Then I woke up the day before the game and everyone was making a big deal out of it.

Q: Right now at age 37, you have more hits than Pete Rose when he was 37. Do you think about the all-time hits record?

Jeter: I don’t think about it; I really don’t. I think it would be selfish on my part to sit around thinking of personal goals and thinking about how many hits I have. I think about how I can help this team win.

Q: Other great shortstops such as Cal Ripken and Ernie Banks moved to other positions. Is that an option?

Jeter: My job is to play short. It’s the job I’ve had since I was called up when I was 20 years old and it has never changed. I’ve never been told to play any other position; never tried to play any other position. It would be kind of hard now to try to learn a new position.

Q: In the past, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle were the faces of the Yankees. Now you’re the face of the Yankees.

Jeter: I don’t think about it. You know I’ve been here a long, long time. I was born in New Jersey and grew up a big Yankee fan. It was the only team I wanted to play for and I was lucky to get drafted by them.  It’s the only place I’ve played but I don’t think you ever sit down and look at it like that. I’ve been fortunate enough so far to have been here my entire career and I appreciate that. So I don’t look it like that.

Q: Each year, the Yankees give out a manual on how to deal with the media. Did you write the manual? You handle the media so well.

Jeter: I’ve never seen the manual. They didn’t give out manuals when I came up. I think they’re for the younger guys. I think you have to learn a lot, you have to be accountable. I think

I’ve always been accountable. You have to realize what your job is and deal with the good and the bad. I’ve always tried to be responsible and accountable. You learn on the go because New York is a little different than most places. You are what you are and if you try to be something else they’d have figured it out by now. You are who you are and you always try to stay the same whether things are going good or bad – take the good with the bad and do the best you can.

Q: Despite playing your entire career in New York, you’ve avoided off-field headlines. 

Jeter: I just try to stay out of the spotlight as much as I can which can be difficult. There’s a lot of distractions in New York and that goes for any player – a lot of distractions, a lot temptations in a lot of different ways. But if you focus on what you’re supposed to be doing, you’ll be fine. It can be tough at times, just don’t look at the paper or listen to the radio.

Q: Any thoughts about ending your career?

Jeter: No, I haven’t. I don’t think you ever prepare for the end of anything. I don’t know if it’s something you realize and it hits you all of a sudden. I’ve had teammates retire and then come back but I don’t know what that feeling is like. But right now I’m just enjoying myself.