Originally published March, 31, 2014.
By Bob Elliott
We asked a few people if they recalled the first time they ever saw Derek Jeter.
Or the moment when they knew he was something special ...
They shared their memories of the New York Yankee captain as he begins his 20th and final season with his first of three stops at the Rogers Centre in 2014 this weekend.
“My wife’s friend, Ann Banner, called my wife Mary and told her that her son was on a Little League team in Kalamazoo, Mich. (1985 or 1986) with someone named Derek Jeter and everybody was talking about how good he was and that he would someday be a major leaguer.“ _ Jays broadcaster Jerry Howarth.
“My uncle, Keith, who scouted for Bill Lajoie (Detroit Tigers, GM) noticed him at age 15-16. My brother, Bill, who played at Western Michigan saw him and Derek played for Bill in ninth grade summer ball. They both mentioned him to me, so when I went to Kalamazoo during Christmas break I would hit at the gym on the WMU campus. We would talk hitting and hit in the cages. He would ask great questions and I’d give my take on pro ball and college ball since he had an offer from Michigan which is where I went. Between his hitting skills and mental take, it stood out that it was a matter of time before he would grow into a decent hitter. He had special knack to time the ball and barrel the ball somewhere. He was a class act as a teenager.” _ Leon Roberts, who played 11 years in the majors, Houston Astros scout.
“I saw him in the summer of 1990, when he was 16. He already had a reputation in Kalamazoo and showed ability and presence even at that age.” _ former Jays scout Don Welke, Texas Rangers scout.
“Keith Roberts (Leon’s uncle) worked for me in Kalamazoo. He called me when Derek was a freshman in high school and said he had a first round pick. I didn’t see Derek until the summer before his senior year (1991) in a tournament in Battle Creek. He made a spectacular turn on a double play that was beyond anything you would see short of major league. I had a good feel at that point he was a major leaguer. I had no idea I was looking at a Hall of Famer and no idea he would reach 3,000 hits.” _ Ken Madeja, Seattle Mariners scout.
“I saw a doubleheader at Kalamazoo High in 1992, on a cold drizzly day which made me cranky, thinking, this guy better be worth sitting through this crappy weather. There were a lot scouts there including Bill Livesey and the Yankees’ entourage, I’m sure Dick Groch was there but I didn’t know him then. Derek’s parents were very accessible and so impressively welcoming of all of us, in spite of the drain the attention can bring.
“When Derek came out for pre-game you were honestly drawn to his ‘look,’ movements and actions. He was a lean wiry kid with a good frame and that was when my imagination started. The games yielded a lot of plays at short which he showed great motion to the balls hit to him, enough to convince me he certainly could play in the majors. His swing looked long and I didn’t see the 3,000 hit-type bat projection even though he showed good contact that day. His approach reminded me of Mark Belanger. I really liked Derek as our No. 1 pick but realized it was wishful as the Mets drafted lower than the Yankees. I came away celebrating seeing a terrific draft prospect, forgetting the crappy weather. I would have stayed for three games.” _ Paul Ricciarini, Astros scout.
“I was in Kalamazoo (as the Pittsburgh scouting director) the day he twisted his ankle at first base. Our area scout Steve Demeter really liked him, thought he was a terrific kid and was sold on his makeup. We had him in the top five selections of the draft. He was smooth, graceful and athletic. He was a pure shortstop who would not have to move positions. I could not say he was going to be a first ballot HOFer, but he sure was a good looking player. Kudos to Dick Groch and Bill Livsey for a sensational selection.” _ Jack Zduriencik, Mariners, GM.
“His draft year he showed a terrific presence and athleticism when I saw him in Kalamazoo cross checking for the Florida Marlins. He didn’t have a special tool that was obvious, but he was plus across the board.” _ Murray Cook, Tigers scout.
“His senior year in Kalamazoo I saw him playing with an ankle brace and he was making that jump and pivot throw we have so often seen in big-league parks throughout his incredible career! My reaction back then when I was cross-checking with the Pirates, was just “wow!!!!” _ Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers.
“In the Yankee stadium dugout at his press conference announcing his signing, with his mom, dad and sister. I knew then after talking with his family and watching him interact with them, that the off the field challenges most guys face would not be a problem with him ... that he was going to be as good as he was capable of, whatever that was. He had alert eyes and was aware of what was going on around him ... he was more interested watching batting practice than getting caught up in the hoopla of NYC. Not much from that standpoint changed all these years later.” _ former Yanks manager Buck Showalter, Orioles manager.
“I was managing Charleston in the South Atlantic League in 1992 and Jeter was at Greensboro. He had a presence about him. The good ones stand out and Jeter stood out.” _ Dave Trembley, Astros coach.
“I remember seeing Jeter at Greensboro in 1993 and being struck by how fluid he looked in everything he did, hitting, fielding, running. He just looked so much smoother than everyone else on the diamond.” _ Former Baseball America guru Jim Callis, MLBPipeline.com
“I was with Capital City (Mets) in 1993 and pitched against him. He was 19 and just wore us out hitting the ball to right centre. He seemed to have that same approach his whole career. The way he carried himself was very mature and professional at a very young age.” _ Steve Lyons, Padres scout.
“Florida State League in 1994 when he was at Tampa. He was so smooth.” _ Chris Buckley, Reds scouting director.
“When I was managing double-A Portland in 1994, he was at Albany-Colonie, he single handledly beat us with his glove and bat.” _ Carlos Tosca, Braves coach.
“His first spring I was surprised how big he was, especially after I saw him run. Size and speed. That spring, the equipment manager asked Buck Showalter what number Jeter should be issued. Something in the 60s or 70s? Showalter suggested a single-digit number. The equipment man was shocked. ‘He’s going to be special,’ Showalter told him.” _ Tim Kurkjian, ESPN.
“Jeter was a rookie, playing short on opening day 1996 in Cleveland. He homered off Dennis Martinez and made a spectacular catch on a fly ball in short left. I remember Phil Rizzuto saying during spring training that year Jeter would be the best shortstop in Yankee history. Phil was proved correct!” _ Tom Burns, Padres scout.
“First time I saw Derek it was a highlight of his first Major League home run. The reason why I remember this so well is because he connected off my former teammate Dennis Martinez. Speaking to Dennis at the end of last season he was very proud to have given up Derek’s initial homer. As for Derek he connected off a brand name. There is only one El Presidente.” _ Ken Singleton, Yankees broadcaster.
“What I remember was the air he had about him. I thought this kid could play on my team, because he got it! It is the respect and knowledge of The Game. His awareness stood out. He knew the situation of every pitch. He communicated in the dugout and on the field. He gave interviews that shared with the fans and media an incite without the conceit. He was an example for kids to play hard and fair with a savior faire! He had a Hollywood look that offended no one because he simply went on the field and executed what he had been taught by coaches and himself. He showed respect to his family by representing them with class.” _ Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.
“I didn’t know anything more about him than I was told by scouts, until he started kickin’ our butts. If my memory serves, Jason Dickson, threw 6 1/3 innings in his major league debut at Yankee Stadium in 1996. Dickson pitched a 7-1 win and the only run he allowed was a lead-off home run by Jeter on the first pitch.” _ former Angels GM Bill Bavasi, now with the Reds.
“His first year in the majors (1996) he had the rhythm in the way he walked. He didn’t burst on the scene as a bright star like Ozzie Smith. Yankee coaches have told me that he’ll take guys for diner and tell a player what he should or shouldn’t have done. If they were arrogant towards umpires or said something stupid. He didn’t become a good leader -- he was a great leader.” _ Jays senior advisor Mel Didier.
“It was either during or after his first year (1996), I remember thinking how easy and graceful he made things look and that he played with great respect for the game, his teammates and his opponents. He never took anything for granted. He had that true confidence in himself without being cocky. A combination very rare that most players wish they could have.” _ former Jays third baseman Ed Sprague, coach University of the Pacific.
“In 1996, at that time everyone knew he was going to be a special player for a long time.” _ Former Phillies GM Lee Thomas, Orioles scout.
“Well, I don’t know if he was ever my favorite player, but he wasn’t after he hit that ball to right field at Yankee Stadium in the 1996 ALCS.” _ Pat Gillick, then the Baltimore Orioles GM, now with the Philadelphia Phillies. Jeffrey Maier leaned over the fence, knocking Jeter’s drive away from a waiting Tony Tarasco tying the score 4-4 in the eighth.
“I was 13 watching TV with my family when he hit that ball the other way at old Yankee Stadium and the kid got in the way.” _ Jays third baseman Edwin Encarnacion.
“I watched the Jeffrey Maier homer and thought man this guy has got it going on if he can hit the ball the other way like that and have that happen. He stepped into the batter’s box at Yankee Stadium when I was with the Mets in 2012 and I had chills down my back. He is a presence. Jonathon Niese was pitching for us and Jeter turned to me and said ‘take it easy on me today Slick.’” _ Catcher Mike Nickeas, formerly of the Mets.
“My first memory of how special he was stemmed from a conversation I had with Cal Ripken Jr. after the 1996 ALCS. I don’t know remember all the exact details, but Joe Morgan, working for NBC, had criticized Ripken’s defense during the ALCS. I called Ripken afterward, and he gave lengthy, detailed explanations about what had happened. One of the plays he referenced involved Jeter, I specifically remember him calling Jeter the fastest runner in the league from the right side.
“By then we already knew that Jeter was special. He was coming off a spectacular first full season, and had hit the home run that Jeffrey Maier interfered with in Game 1. But to hear Ripken talking about him that way, sort of saying, “Hey, this guy makes things difficult!” it was clear that Jeter had earned the respect of the game’s very best.” _ Ken Rosenthal, FOX Sports.
“I didn’t watch much baseball on TV in high school or college. I watched highlights and remember the home run against the Orioles (1996), the flip in Oakland (2001) and making a catch, crashing into the seats and coming out with a bloody nose (2004).” _ Jays’ DH Adam Lind.
“I remember the first time! I was the Phillies pitching coach (1997). We played him in inter-league and I asked “Where the hell do the Yankees find these guys?” _ Galen Cisco, former Jays pitching coach.
“My parents took me from Austin to Arlington to see the Yankees play against the Rangers in 1998. I was 10 years old. Usually I’d sit and eat the ice cream out of the baseball helmet, like most kids my age. But I watched him.” _ Jays second baseman Ryan Goins.
“In 1998 the Yankees played the Padres in the World Series, Patrick Reusse (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) and I were talking to coach Don Zimmer in the dugout about how remarkable this run was, considering they didn’t have an obvious Hall of Famer at the time (before Mariano Rivera became what he was). Zimmer said: “Well, you say that, but this kid at shortstop might have a chance.” I remember his unbelievable cutoff catch-and-throw he made in the post season for an out at third and of course the home runs in Yankee Stadium.
“But the best one was in 2000 when George King (New York Post) and I found his scout Dick Groch, in the dugout in Shea Stadium. He said when Jeter’s name up in the draft, somebody said, “Dick, isn’t he going to Michigan?” Groch said, “Nope.” Then the scout was asked “is he going to Michigan?” Dick said ‘no, he’s going to Cooperstown.’” _ Mark Whicker, Orange County Register.
“Everyone wanted to be like him, I saw him when I was a high schooler. All the playoff hits he had, always making the right play. He was a guy who made a lasting impression.” _ Jays closer Casey Janssen.
“The back-hand flip for the out at the plate in Oakland in the 2001 ALCS.” _ Jays bullpen coach Bob Stanley.
“I was in a transitional stage, from player to coach, when he broke in. I knew how good he was. The “play” in Oakland cinched it for me.” _ Jays first base coach Tim Leiper.
"I never saw a lot of him when he was young ... but I hear that he's pretty good." _ Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
“I grew up an Atlanta Braves fan, then a Boston Red Sox fan. I was into the who’s better argument on Red Sox games? Nomar Garciaparra or Jeter? I remember the flip that day game in Oakland.” _ Jays right-hander Drew Hutchison.
“We played against each other in the 2003 Subway Series. He’s one of my idols. It was an honour to share the same city with him. He sent over a signed jersey for me.” _ Jays shortstop Jose Reyes, former Met.
“I was the young kid in the 2006 World Baseball Classic in awe of being in the same locker room as Justin Morneau and Jason Bay. We were in Phoenix to play Team USA and I was at the yard hours before anyone to soak in every second. I remember standing on the top step of the dugout watching Team USA take BP. Jeter gets in, takes a round and I remember being locked in on him almost in awe. He finishes his round and starts to jog to first and I’m staring at him as he runs by our dugout and gives me a nod and says “what’s up man?” I quickly looked around to see who he was talking to, realized it was me and tried to play it cool giving him a head nod and smiling at him. Meanwhile, the 21 year old rookie inside me wanted to run out and ask for his autograph and tell him how much of a stud he was. I played against him a couple times in spring training since and have always remembered that.” _ Former Padres and Team Canada catcher Chris Robinson.
“He comes up at Yankee Stadium in 2011. First pitch from R.A. Dickey is inside, second pitch is up and in, he spins out of the way in time. He gets back into the box, jabs the barrel of the bat into in my chest lightly and says ‘cut that out, I’m too old for that.’” _ Jays Josh Thole, former Met catcher.
“About the minute I saw him.” _ Phillies scout Charlie Kerfeld.
“In 2005 he led off with a triple to right in Anaheim. He got to third and asked if I was any relation to Felipe Izturis. I told him Felipe was my brother, then he wished me good luck in Spanish. I have never forgotten that. He always played the game right, respected the game.” _ Jays infielder Maicer Izturis.
“I liked him, I just wished he was born a few years earlier -- he could have made me a smarter manager.” _ Dallas Green, former Phillies and Cubs manager.
“Jeter was the kind of guy that sneaks up on you. He doesn’t hit like Cal or run like Bo Jackson, or catch it like Ozzie, but when it’s on the line you want them to hit it to “Jeet” or have him at the plate in the ninth because he is going to come through. He is a leader because everyone follows his lead!” _ Jays broadcaster Buck Martinez.
“The guy was all about winning. In a tough spot, in a big game, he was the guy you wanted at the plate. He was never overwhelmed by the moment. He was a winner, plain and simple.” _ Dan Shulman, ESPN.
“Jeter is the epitome of the Yankee team since the 1990s and a great role model for all the kids.” _ former Red Sox lefty Rheal Cormier.
“As Pericles wrote “What we leave behind is not engraved in stone monuments but woven into the lives of others.” I don’t know if any other athlete has represented a sport in a more dignified and professional manner. Can’t quite remember the first time I saw Derek, but the I do remember our first conversation (the 2009 all-star game). Validating all respect and understanding what a true honor it was to know the man.” _ Former M’s manager Don Wakamatsu, Yankees scout.
“The Scouting Bureau tape shows Derek in high school dropping a couple balls during infield, showing at most an average arm, getting no hits during the game, but also running all out to first base on both ground balls he hit. Kalamazoo had Mike Squires and DJ and not much else at the time. The impression you got as a high school player was the perfect way he handled himself around his family. They were close knit and enjoyed being around each other. ARod’s bureau tape is legendary because he shows all five tools and Derek’s has become legendary because of the lack of anything in the tape.
“Still I would say that Jeter is 90% of scouts’ favorite player. Guys really appreciate the way he plays the game every day and all the time. I once watched Derek throw a ball in the stands to an 8-9 year old young girl in the stands and once again I was all in because Jeter had taken the time to get this young fan a major league ball. He’s a great ambassador for MLB and a very smart player.” _ Eddie Bane, Red Sox scout.
“His favorite Japanese word is “toshiyori” which means elder. Jeter’s birthday (June 26th, 1974) is two weeks later than Hideki Matsui’s birthday (June 12th, 1974). Since Matsui’s rookie season, Jeter always called Matsui “Toshiyori.” When Matsui announced his retirement, Jeter came to the dugout to talk to only the Japanese media. He is a real professional. Many players tease or joke to Japanese media by using bad Japanese words, but Jeter never did that to us since Day 1, spring training, 2003. He always talked to us, like US and Canadian media - not like some Japanese players.” _ Gaku Tashiro, Sankei Sports.
“He is the greatest player in the game during the last two decades ... with a balance of talent, leadership abilities and being a winner, a champion under the brightest lights.” _ Ned Colletti, GM Los Angeles Dodgers.
The draft: Derek Jeter is a game changer.
Everyone knows that since he donned the Pin Stripes.
Yet, did you know the kind of impact he had before the New York Yankees even drafted him?
Scout Hal Newhouser, the Hall of Fame Detroit Tigers right-hander, quit on the Houston Astros when they refused to take him first over-all.
Jeter wanted $750,000 US but Astros owner John McMullen put a $700,000 cap on the top pick. So, Jeter was lost over $50,000.
The Astros instead chose Phil Nevin and signed him for $700,000.
First Round 1992 June Amateur Draft
Pick Team Position Name Career Games Teams
1. Astros 3B Phil Nevin 12 years 1,217 games, Padres, Tigers, Rangers, Twins, Cubs, Angels, Astros.
2. Indians RHP Paul Shuey 11 yrs 476 games, Indians, Dodgers, O’s.
3. Expos LHP B.J. Wallace, double-A
4. Orioles OF Jeffrey Hammonds 13 years 957 games, O’s, Brewers, Giants, Reds, Rockies, Nationals.
5. Reds OF Chad Mottola, five years, 59 games, Blue Jays, Reds, O’s, Marlins.
6. Yankees SS Derek Jeter 20th season, 2,602 games, Yanks.
7. Giants OF Calvin Murray, five years, 288 games, Giants, Rangers, Cubs
8. Angels RHP Pete Janicki, triple-A
9. Mets SS Preston Wilson, 10 years, 1,108 games, Marlins, Rockies, Cards, Mets, Nationals, Astros.
10. Royals SS Michael Tucker, 12 years, 1,417 games, Royals, Reds, Giants, Braves, Mets, Phillies, Cubs,
11. Cubs RHP Derek Wallace, two years, 27 games, Mets, Royals.
12. Brewers OF Ken Felder, triple-A.
13. Phillies OF Chad McConnell, double-A.
14. M’s LHP Ron Villone, 15 years, 717 games, M’s, Padres, Reds, Yanks, Astros, Brewers, Rockies, Pirates, Cards, Nationals, Indians, Marlins.
15. Cardinals RHP Sean Lowe, seven years, 248 games, White Sox, Cards, Royals, Rockies, Pirates.
16. Tigers RHP Rick Greene, one year, one game, Reds.
17. Royals RHP Jim Pittsley, four years, 81 games, Royals, Brewers.
18. Mets LHP Chris Roberts, triple-A
19. Blue Jays OF Shannon Stewart, 14 years, 1,387 games, Jays, Twins, A’s.
20. Athletics RHP Benji Grigsby, triple-A.
21. Braves RHP Jamie Arnold, two years, 50 games, Dodgers, Cubs.
22. Rangers RHP Rick Helling 12 years, 301 games, Rangers, Marlins, Brewers, Diamondbacks, O’s.
23. Pirates C Jason Kendall, 15 years, 2,085 games, Pirates, A’s, Brewers, Royals, Cubs.
24. White Sox 1B Eddie Pearson, triple-A
25. Blue Jays OF Todd Steverson, two years, 51 games, Tigers, Padres.
26. Twins LHP Dan Serafini, seven years, 104 games, Twins, Rockies, Pirates, Padres, Reds, Cubs.
27. Rockies RHP John Burke, two years, 28 games, Rockies.
28. Marlins C Charles Johnson, 12 years, 1,188 games, Marlins, Rockies, O’s, Rays, Dodgers, White Sox.