Tulowitzki reflects on boyhood idol Jeter's legacy
Rox's All-Star shortstop glad to see 'special career' end on captain's own terms
Troy Tulowitzki grew up watching, studying and idolizing Derek Jeter. When he finally got a chance to meet the Yankees' captain, it played out just like he hoped.
"So many people get to meet, say, their idol, and it's not a good experience. [Jeter] was the exact opposite," Tulowitzki said. "It was great in every aspect. [He's] someone you can ask questions, [he's] responsible, on time to his events. A lot of things stood out."
Jeter, 39, will be retiring at the end of the 2014 season, his 20th year of historic service for the Yankees. As he accumulated five World Series championships, 3,316 hits and 13 All-Star appearances, Jeter became an icon.
Whether it was diving into the stands to make a catch, making trademarked one-legged leaping throws or delivering clutch hits, there are countless memories of Jeter from which to choose.
Game 3 of the 2001 American League Division Series against the Athletics probably tops the list, when Jeter sprinted across the infield, barehanded the ball after an overthrow and threw out Jeremy Giambi at home, a play that simply became known as "The Flip."
From a shortstop's perspective, it may not get any better.
"After [Jeter] did that, now when we do that double cut, the shortstop kind of floats," said Mariners shortstop Brad Miller. "Every coach has taught us it's kind of like the Jeter play. ... To break and get all the way over there is wild. Instincts right there."
Tulowitzki, the 29-year-old Rockies shortstop, expressed mixed emotions toward Jeter's final season, because though he will be sad to see Jeter retire, he is happy it is on the Yankees captain's own terms. It is no coincidence that Tulowitzki wears the same No. 2 on his uniform.
"Ever since I've known this game from a kid, Derek was always in it," Tulowitzki said. "Watching him, playing against him, trying to be like him, it's always been in the game for me. So it's a special career, and hopefully it's a good ending for him."
Over the years, Tulowitzki and Jeter have spent some time together. The majority of their talks took place at Jeter's baseball camps, where Tulowitzki happily helped out.
The timing of Jeter's retirement announcement -- Feb. 12, 2014 -- caught some people off guard. Jeter followed the path of his ex-teammate and friend Mariano Rivera, addressing his future plans prior to Opening Day.
Others in the past have decided to make retirement news public after the season. Royals pitcher Bruce Chen thinks Jeter went about it the right way.
"I think it's actually better that way, because the fans know this is your last year and come see you," Chen said. "The organization isn't up in the air, and they can prepare for what it's like to succeed Derek Jeter. And the fans and the organization can actually say goodbye in a nice way."
Chen, 36, pitched in the AL East for the Orioles from 2004-06, as well as five games for the Red Sox in '03. During that span, Chen competed against Jeter regularly. The left-hander said it was an honor to face Jeter, and he described the shortstop as a tough out.
Miller, 24, is about to enter his second season as the Mariners' shortstop, and he now has the unique opportunity to start alongside Jeter's old double-play partner for nine seasons in Robinson Cano. Cano spoke highly about Jeter in a conversation with Miller. Miller wants to learn about Jeter through Cano, but he isn't sure what to ask yet.
Jeter accumulated the ninth-most hits ever, ahead of Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth and all other Yankees legends, and he may rise to No. 6 before he hangs his cleats up. At the end of Jeter's career, his resume and accomplishments will be first-ballot Hall of Fame worthy. Therefore, Jeter has a strong candidacy to be considered one of the greatest shortstops of all time.
"I never got the chance to watch Honus Wagner play, but from what I hear, he's probably really up there as maybe the best," Tulowitzki said. "Cal Ripken Jr., obviously. [Jeter] is right up there with those guys."