Jeter thanks fans in special commercial, then homers
Yankees captain begins final homestand by hitting first blast in the Bronx this season
NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter's final homestand will be met with many emotional goodbyes from fans over the next week. But before he even made it to the ballpark Thursday, a Gatorade commercial anticipating and celebrating the Yankees captain's farewell already had made its way onto the Internet.
The black-and-white ad follows Jeter on his way to the ballpark and watches him walk the last few blocks to Yankee Stadium. He greets some kids, stops by Stan's Sports Bar and soon gets engulfed by fans near the gates before eventually tipping his cap in uniform outside the dugout.
All of it was choreographed to Frank Sinatra's "My Way," a song Jeter says he picked out himself.
"I've always liked the song," said Jeter, who said Sinatra was an easy choice. "I thought it was fitting, I thought it fit for what I'm going through. I'm happy we used it.
"It was an opportunity for me to thank people, which I've been pretty consistent with every time I've spoken is how much the fans have meant to me my entire career. It's sort of a way to thank them for what they've meant to me. It was a fun experience. It didn't take long, probably 30 minutes at most."
Jeter then thanked the fans with his bat Thursday night in a way he hadn't the entire season. In the sixth inning of the Yankees' 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays, he turned on a 3-1 fastball from starter R.A. Dickey and placed it several rows deep in left field. It was his fourth homer of the year, and first at Yankee Stadium.
"I always look for a fastball," said Jeter. "I've faced [Dickey] quite a bit. He mixes them in once in a while. I wasn't surprised by it, but it was a big hit for us at the time and I'm glad we were able to hang on there."
Manager Joe Girardi predicted that Yankee Stadium would be a great atmosphere, providing "standing ovation after standing ovation." That proved to be true after Jeter's big knock, part of a two-hit performance. Fans erupted trying to coax a curtain call, but Jeter didn't want to upstage the middle of Brian McCann's at-bat.
"It's another game," said Jeter. "I'm trying not to think about it being the last homestand. We still have a week left. We're trying to win games, and I'm going to go out there and play hard like I've done my entire career until we're out of games.
"I hear it from the fans, and opposing players, managers, coaches, but while we're playing the games, I'm trying to help us win."
After the game, Girardi admitted he wasn't surprised how Jeter began his final string of games at home, acknowledging the difficulty in staying focused on the game amidst the constant chatter of his farewell.
"I'm sure he's trying to soak this up as much as he can," said Girardi. "It's really difficult to take the uniform off. He understands what's coming. It's a big change in life for him, but he loves to play so much that I'm sure it's difficult as well."
As has been the case the whole season, making sure Jeter is in the lineup often is something Girardi is wary of, especially as he plays the final seven home games of his career. Girardi said he will take it day by day and "probably DH him some." After nights like Thursday, it will be hard to keep him on the bench.
"He's a guy you want up with the game on the line in big situations and he's always had that ability," Girardi said.
Girardi didn't mention his plans for how he will handle honoring Jeter during his last home game against the Orioles on Sept. 25. But like last year's farewell to Mariano Rivera, there likely won't be an opportunity for Jeter to extend his goodbye into October.
"I think that's probably really strange for Derek, and as hard as last year was for him, this will probably be harder," said Girardi. "I know our chances aren't great, but as long as there's a chance, we have to keep doing what we need to do to win, and that's what he would want, too."