Derek Jeter has last home opener

ByAndrew Marchand ESPN logo
Monday, April 7, 2014

NEW YORK -- The Core Four was a complete group again Monday at Yankee Stadium to honor its leader, the retiring Derek Jeter, in his final home opener.

The New York Yankees had the homegrown group that formed the nucleus of their latest dynasty years -- Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Jeter -- throw and receive the ceremonial first pitches before the game against the Baltimore Orioles.

"Those guys are like brothers to me," Jeter said three hours before Monday's first pitch. "I think it will be a special moment, especially for a lot of the fans who grew up watching all four of us play, to see us all together once again."

Pettitte and Rivera threw to Jeter and Posada. Right before Rivera tossed to Jeter and Pettitte fired to Posada, PA announcer Paul Olden said, "Once more: the Core Four."

Both retired pitchers, Pettitte and Rivera, threw accurately.

"I asked Derek who he wanted to catch," Posada said afterward. "And I said, 'Mo's throwing sinkers and cutters.' He said, 'I'm going to catch Andy.'"

In the first inning, Jeter stepped to the plate and the sellout crowd stood and rhythmically chanted his name, "Derek Jeter, Derek Jeter, Derek Jeter," throughout the first pitch.

"They've treated me with respect," Jeter said of the fans during the pregame news conference. "I've always said that Yankees fans are the greatest fans in the world. That is no disrespect to any other team or any other sport. That's just how I feel."

Jeter would go down on strikes against Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez.

Leading off the fifth, Jeter missed a home run by a foot with a line drive down the left field line. Jeter slid in head-first for a double and came around to score on Jacoby Ellsbury's single.

During the introductions of the starting lineups, Jeter received a slightly louder ovation than his teammates, but it wasn't overwhelming. In the top of the first inning, the Bleacher Creatures, during their traditional roll call, were a little more vociferous for Jeter than the other position players. Jeter, as all Yankees customarily do during the chant, gave them a wave of his glove. There was a cheer afterward.

Early in the season, Jeter has moved up in the franchise and Major League Baseball's record books. Jeter has played in 20 seasons, which is the most in team history, breaking a tie with Rivera. On Sunday, Jeter passed Paul Molitor to move into eighth place on the all-time hits list. With 3,320 hits, Jeter needs 99 more to pass Carl Yastrzemski for seventh.

In 2013, the Yankees' season was highlighted by Rivera's farewell, culminating last September, when Jeter and Pettitte came out to the mound to remove him during his final appearance of his career.

"The last time that I pitched there was a good moment," Rivera said. "When these guys took me out of the game. I had great time [on Monday.]"

While enjoying all the tributes, Jeter says he cannot lose sight of the fact that he has to prepare to perform.

"I get the fact that I have to play a game," Jeter said. "I have to play a season. I think not enjoying is not the right way to put it. I think balancing it is the better way to put it."

With five championship rings, beginning in 1996, Jeter has become the team's most popular player over the past two decades.

"I've always had a great relationship with the fans," Jeter said. "They've pretty much saw me grow up since I was 20 years old."

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