New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (2) walks back to the dugout in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. (USA TODAY Sports: Joe Camporeale)
NEW YORK — As he talked about his final home opener, shortstop Derek Jeter recalled a story when manager Joe Torre talked to him after winning the World Series and Rookie of the Year in 1996.
The gist of the conversation entailed some of the other things that go along with being a prominent athlete in a major media market like New York.
Left unsaid was what Jeter told Torre, which drew laughs from a crowded Yankee Stadium press conference room.
“The part of the story you’re missing is that I told (Torre) the same thing,” Jeter said. “You won a championship and had a great year managing, don’t screw it up.”
Jeter, Torre and the rest of the Yankees didn’t mess it up, winning four championships in the next five years.
In all seriousness when Jeter came up, the Yankees had recently completed a decade when they traded away numerous prospects. They were in discussions about trading some of their other ones, especially given George Steinbrenner’s impatience and sometimes itchy trigger finger that led to previous deals and also shaped Jeter’s mindset.
“You know, I came up in a culture where you were never promised a job,” Jeter said. “We had to perform in order to keep our job, and that’s the mindset that we had going into every season. Some of you guys may have not been here, but I know a few of you have. If you didn’t do your job, The Boss would get rid of you. So every spring training, every offseason, I trained and prepared for — the way I looked at it was — an opportunity to win a job, and I’ve done that every year.
“So I never take anything for granted. I get the fact that I had success my first year, but you only get a chance to do this for a short period of time in your life, so you need to make the most of it. And I’ve tried to make the most out of it my 20 years here.”
Monday marked Jeter’s 2,608th regular-season game and often the perception has been that he has not enjoyed certain things like the honors that will be bestowed upon him in road games.
“Well, their perception is wrong,” Jeter said. “I will enjoy it. Every city I go to, every game I play, I will enjoy it. What they think, how they think I feel, they’re wrong on that one. But at the same time, I get the fact that I have to play a game, and I have to play a season. I think not enjoying it is the wrong way to put it. Balancing it, I think, is the better way to put it.”
The opener turned out to be a fun day for Jeter, who went 1-for-4 in the Yankees’ 4-2 win over the Orioles and he scored a run after getting a standing ovation before his first at-bat. That came after he participated in a ceremonial first pitch with former teammates Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada.