For one memorable night, Derek Jeter was everyone's captain.
Starting with the pre-game introductions and continuing through his dramatic curtain call, the New York Yankees' shortstop was the shining star in Major League Baseball's firmament that everyone was gazing at. The 40-year-old five-time World Series champion who is playing in his final season before retirement was applauded by fans, teammates and opponents alike as the American League defeated the National League 5-3 at Target Field on Tuesday night in the 2014 All-Star game.
"I've never taken any All-Star games for granted," Jeter told reporters after he helped the AL secure home-field advantage in the 2014 World Series. "And any player that says that they don't want to go to an All-Star game is lying to you because this is something that everyone wants to be a part of. And I've been fortunate to be a part of a few of them and I'm happy that I had a chance to do it one last time."
When Jeter emerged from the American League dugout for the first at-bat of his final career appearance in the All-Star Game in the bottom of the first inning, the National League's starting pitcher, Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals, left his glove on the mound and joined in the applause.
"I just felt like that was what he deserved," Wainwright told MLB.com. "I wasn't going near it. I'd still be standing there if the crowd kept cheering."
Jeter, who stepped into the batter's box with a career .440 batting average in the Midsummer Classic, turned around Wainwright's second pitch with his signature inside-out swing for a leadoff double into right field. He would score the first run of the game when Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout drove him home with a triple.
Wainwright would later cause a bit of a stir during the game by telling reporters that he had grooved a pitch to Jeter in that opening plate appearance. In his only inning of work, Wainwright surrendered a double to Jeter, a triple to Trout and a two-run home run to Miguel Cabrera.
“I was gonna give him a couple pipe shots. He deserved it," Wainwright said after his inning of work, reported Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. "I didn’t know he was gonna hit a double or I might have changed my mind.”
The Cardinals' right-hander, making his third All-Star game appearance, would later backtrack on those comments when asked about them on camera during the FOX broadcast.
"Sometimes my humor gets taken the wrong way," Wainwright told Erin Andrews of FOX Sports during the eighth inning. "I feel terrible about this, if anyone is taking any credit away from what Derek Jeter has done today or off me or anything. It was missaid. I made a mistake about that. I hope people realize I'm not intentionally giving up hits out there. I know this game means something. I'm guessing people don't think I'm trying to give up home runs to Miguel Cabrera too."
Wainwright would not be on the mound when Jeter came to the plate for the second time. With the AL leading 3-2 in the bottom of the third, Jeter recorded his second hit of the night. He flared a single to right field off Cincinnati Reds pitcher Alfredo Simon to become the oldest player in MLB history to record multiple hits in an All-Star game.
In the top of the fourth, Jeter took his place at shortstop before AL manager John Farrell sent out Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox to replace him. Another ovation erupted as Jeter headed off the field with Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" playing at Target Field. He would greet each of his AL teammates in the dugout before stepping out for one last All-Star curtain call.
"It was a wonderful moment that I'm always going to remember," Jeter said of his exit during his postgame press conference. "I appreciate John doing that for me. But it was a special moment and it was unscripted. Like I said, I was unaware of it. The way the fans treated me -- you know these are fans from all different teams and the fans have always been respectful of me my entire career both at home and on the road --and to have that moment in the All-Star game was special."