Astros shower Jeter with applause, gifts
Retiring shortstop presented with cowboy boots, hat in pregame ceremony
Andy Pettitte described Derek Jeter's pregame routine as "crazy, crazy, crazy," and offered this theory as his longtime and soon-to-be-retired teammate prepares to make his way through the Major Leagues as the man of the hour:
"I'm sure it's going to be kind of torture for him," Pettitte chuckled.
If there is a good kind of torture, this is probably it. Jeter, the undisputed face of baseball for most of the 19-plus years he's patrolled the shortstop position for the storied Yankees, is in for six months of admiration and appreciation from every team the Yankees play. That's every team -- from the heated rivals to the mere home-and-home acquaintances. Everyone wants to celebrate Jeter, and somehow, Jeter will make it work, as he did on Wednesday, when the Astros showered him with an array of gifts that screamed, fittingly, "Texas."
More on that later. Presents are nice, but emotions are more poignant, especially in this context, with one of the game's greatest starting his farewell tour at Minute Maid Park. The meaning of this was not lost on Bo Porter's Astros, most of whom popped out of the dugout -- and the bullpen, all the way down in center field -- to stand and applaud the iconic shortstop. Appreciative fans added to the moment, prompting Jeter to tip his helmet in acknowledgement, a nice gesture for No. 2, poetically, on Game No. 2 of the season.
"It was nice that they took the time to honor me," Jeter said. "It probably caught me off guard when the Astros guys came out my first at-bat. It was much appreciated."
Now, on to the gifts. First there was the pair of Yankees pinstriped Lucchese cowboy boots, emblazoned with Jeter's No. 2. Then came the Texas-size Stetson cowboy hat, seemingly a must-have for anyone who passes through Minute Maid Park on his way to the Hall of Fame.
Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Mike Stanton, all former teammates and all Houston residents, joined Jeter on the field to present the gifts, along with longtime Astros radio announcer Milo Hamilton.
The ceremony also involved several big names from the golf world, in conjunction with the Shell Houston Open, which is taking place through April 6. On the field to congratulate Jeter were Mark O'Meara, the winner of the 1998 Masters and British Open, plus three-time PGA Tour winner Johnson Wagner, 2009 U.S. Open winner and current PGA tour member Lucas Glover, and Astros owner Jim Crane.
Crane, an accomplished golfer in his own right, owns the Floridian Golf Resort in Palm City, and he presented Jeter with a three-night stay at the resort as well as golf lessons from renowned teaching professional Butch Harmon. On behalf of the PGA, O'Meara, Wagner and Glover, Jeter was also presented a Titleist golf club set.
"The guys were trying to get me to wear the boots and the hat," Jeter said. "I'll wear the boots and the hat when I golf. I can combine all of them. I thought it was nice. I don't have too many pairs of boots.
"I need lessons from a lot of people when it comes to golf. If they have lessons and want to give them, I'm more than happy to accept them."
The pregame honors will vary from city to city, but they'll largely have the same theme. Two to three minutes carved between the lineups announcements and the anthem, designed to be a tip of the cap to a model citizen who seamlessly navigated his way through two decades of baseball under a microscope in the country's largest media market, unblemished and completely devoid of controversy, all while compiling numbers that make him arguably one of the greatest, in both Yankees and Major League Baseball history.
"I don't assume [this will happen again," he said. "It's appreciated, but it's not something that I go out expecting. Today was nice. It was nice of them to do. It was not something I would expect."
Jeter decided to announce his retirement prior to the season, rather than toward the end of it, as Pettitte did, knowing that with advance notice will come the accolades. And that's the way it should be, Pettitte said, given where Jeter stands in history and what he means to today's fans.
"He's kind of been the face of baseball for a long time," said Pettitte, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the request of Astros president Reid Ryan. "He had to [announce his retirement early]. I know he probably didn't want to. I know him, I know his personality -- he does not want to be messed with before a game's about to start. He wants to be focusing on the game and getting ready for that.
"But he had to do it -- to give the fans a chance. Just like [Mariano Rivera] did last year. These guys are first-ballot Hall of Fame players, and those don't come along every day. It's great for him to go do this. It's great for him to be able to let the fans in all the cities that we go to honor him. I know it's not his style, but it's great for the game."