Programming note: Yankees-A’s coverage starts Friday at 6:30 p.m. with A’s Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
The A’s will honor and remember Derek Jeter’s decorated career Sunday, even though he authored one of the moments Oakland fans would most like to forget.
Jeter’s farewell season continues this weekend when his New York Yankees visit for a three-game series that marks the shortstop’s final regular-season games at the Coliseum.
It will be reminiscent of last season’s ceremony to honor another Yankee great, closer Mariano Rivera, who was celebrated around the majors as he made his way to the different ballparks for the last time.
A’s fans, of course, will forever associate Jeter with the “The Flip” – his improvised play in Game 3 of the 2001 A.L. Division Series when he ran down a wayward throw from right field and flipped the ball home so Yankees catcher Jorge Posada could put the tag on Jeremy Giambi, who infamously failed to slide and was called out.
It will live forever in postseason lore, and the play encapsulates so much of what’s made the 13-time All-Star such a special player. At least that’s how one of his former teammates sees it.
“His game awareness was very strong,” said A’s hitting coach Chili Davis, a teammate of Jeter’s from 1998-99. “There are some guys who are always in the game, never standing still. They’re always prepared to be somewhere – somewhere they should be, or somewhere they think, ‘Maybe I can help out.’”
Manager Bob Melvin also has ties to Jeter. He spent part of his final professional season of 1995 playing with the Yankees’ Triple-A squad, where the future “Core Four” of Jeter, Rivera, Posada and starter Andy Pettitte were cutting their teeth.
“You could see, even as a young player, that he wasn’t one of those guys that was going to wow you in batting practice. He didn’t have a cannon for a throwing arm,” Melvin said. “He didn’t have a tool that really just stood out. But he was a winner. And he’s always in the right place at the right time.”
Last season, Melvin joined A’s president Michael Crowley in presenting Rivera with a surfboard and a bottle of Napa Valley wine as gifts during his final game at the Coliseum. It’s a good bet Melvin will take part in Sunday’s festivities too. The A’s aren’t sharing much about what they have planned, but it figures they’ll present Jeter a keepsake of some sort.
“That’ll be kinda cool,” Melvin said. “I played with both those guys, on the same team. We go back a little bit. (Jeter’s had) an unbelievable career. It gives you a little time to reflect on what he’s done, even though he’s still there competing against you.”
A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson says he’s always looked up to Jeter, and while he’ll enjoy the chance to compete against him this weekend, Donaldson holds hope that he might get to play alongside of him next month. Both players lead their respective positions in current All-Star Game voting that determines starting position players for the July 15 event.
“I know that would be very special for me,” Donaldson said. “Jeter is one of the greatest players to play the game. Especially for me, at a time when I was coming up watching baseball, he was the man. To do it for as long as he’s done, at the level he’s done it at … it’s really an honor just to be able to step on the field with him.”
Davis was nearing the end of his own playing career when he signed with the Yankees before the 1998 season and got to know Jeter as a teammate. He was part of back-to-back World Series winning teams before retiring after the ’99 season.
“He was a good guy,” Davis said. “He was never looking to be in the limelight. If you went out with him to dinner, it was kind of secluded. He just wanted to be with people he knew. It was important to me because I knew my career was coming to an end. And to finish the way I did with that organization was perfect. He was a very integral part of that.”