Gio's dugout tumble better than Jeter's dive?

October 4th, 2021

NEW YORK -- In an all-out effort reminiscent of Derek Jeter’s 2004 dive into the stands, Yankees third baseman tumbled into the visiting dugout at Yankee Stadium in the sixth inning of Sunday’s 1-0 Yankees victory over the Rays, a daring display befitting the stakes of this contest for the home team.

Urshela raced at full speed from his shortstop position to snare Austin Meadows’ foul popup. With no time to stop or slow, Urshela’s body hurtled into the visiting dugout, hitting his right thigh and right elbow near the bench at a spot where there were no Rays players to break his fall.

A day later, Urshela earned his first Play of the Week Award for his all-out effort.

“When I was running, I was thinking, ‘Just make the out,’” Urshela said. “Then I caught the ball and saw there was the stairs. I was just trying to save my body from the benches. … I’ll be honest, I felt like it was really bad. I felt a lot of pain in that moment. I didn’t even know what was happening.”

Home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez raced in behind Urshela to confirm the out call, but the infielder remained down for several moments while trainers attended to him, with members of both teams waiting near the dugout steps. After a few minutes, Urshela heard a loud ovation as he walked back to the Yankees' dugout, albeit with a slight limp.

“All things considered, we got really lucky,” manager Aaron Boone said. “From my vantage point, he looked like a missile flying in there. It scared me to death. I jumped out and ran straight over there, not knowing what I was going to see. A scary play and a great play, and a guy that wants to go win.”

Urshela played the next two innings before his body stiffened. He said that Monday’s off-day should allow him enough time to be rested and ready for Tuesday’s American League Wild Card Game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

“I feel really good, just a little sore,” Urshela said. “That was an incredible play. I’m just trying to help my team. I just hit a couple parts of my body; other than that, I’m really good.”

Urshela was the closest infielder to Meadows’ popup, with third baseman Rougned Odor stationed in shallow right field on a shift. Urshela covered 126 feet at a 27.3 feet/second sprint speed to make the play, according to Statcast.

“It was all in front of me,” outfielder Aaron Judge said. “I saw him going straight for that opening in the dugout. That’s a tough play, that’s a competitor right there. That’s a guy that leaves it all out on the field, sacrificing his body for the team and this game. It speaks volumes to what type of player Gio Urshela is.”

There did not appear to be enough time for anyone on the Rays’ bench to cushion Urshela’s impact. Rays manager Kevin Cash called it “maybe the best play of the season.”

“I saw him slam into the bench pretty hard there,” Rays catcher Mike Zunino said. “I wasn’t sure if it was his back, leg or if he got tangled up on one of the steps, but Gio is a heck of a player, a heck of a competitor. He makes plays like that quite a bit. I’m just happy that he left that healthy.”

Instantly, parallels could be seen between Urshela’s play and Jeter’s bloody tumble, a play shown thousands of times on television replays over the past two decades.

Jeter’s dive into the stands came in a July 1, 2004, game against the Red Sox at the original Yankee Stadium, retiring Trot Nixon on a 12th-inning foul-out. Jeter received seven stitches, and the Yankees went on to win in 13 innings.

“He went to the stands, I went to the dugout,” Urshela said. “But at the end of the day, he made that play and I made the play too. So that’s the thing that matters.”