How many times can a guy say good-bye, and in how many ways? New York Yankees superstar Derek Jeter is starting to find out. Jeter's 19th and final opening day was an otherwise forgettable 6-2 loss Tuesday night for the Yankees to the Houston Astros, losers themselves of 111 games in 2013.
Because it was the opener at Minute Maid Park, most of the pomp and circumstance was reserved for the home team. Festivities for the opener included Hall of Famer and team adviser Nolan Ryan throwing out the first (wild) pitch to Craig Biggio. The Astros will honor Jeter on Wednesday, probably much like they did with Mariano Rivera to close the 2013 season. A reunion with former teammates Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, and probably some good ol' Texas swag as parting gifts, are expected to be on tap.
Fans gave Jeter a nice hand when the Yankees were introduced, and many gasped when he was hit by a pitch on his heavily padded left arm in his first plate appearance in the first inning. Via the Associated Press, he said:
"I was a little extra anxious because I hadn't played in a while, but when I got hit, I think that actually helped," said Jeter.
Way to go, right-hander Scott Feldman. Jeter stayed in the game, played nine innings and finished 1 for 3 with a run scored. He also played his position at shortstop without trouble.
All of that in itself was a victory for Jeter, who was limited to 17 games in 2013 while trying to recover from a broken ankle he sustained in the 2012 playoffs, along with less severe subsequent injuries. Getting older — he turns 40 in June — has made it harder for Jeter to recover, which is a reason he said he's retiring after the season.
Before the game, Jeter gave a clue as to how he would handle the opener — and probably every other moment of his good-bye tour.
"I'm trying to treat it like any other opening day,'' he said, ''and every opening day is special where you have butterflies and you have nerves and I think that's a good thing. I don't foresee this being any different.''
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