Coffee clutch: Jeter maintains rigid daily routine
ST. PETERSBURG -- The scene has played out countless times in stadiums across the country; you can almost set your watch to it. About three hours before the scheduled first pitch, Derek Jeter walks into the clubhouse, a coffee cup nestled in his right hand.
The Yankees captain approaches the laptop computer set up for ticket requests, punches in a few names, slings a pair of white sanitary socks over his shoulder and begins to prepare for the nine innings ahead. While he does, Jeter's java is a constant companion.
"I'm just a creature of habit, you know what I'm saying?" Jeter said. "Everything I do is pretty much a routine. I wouldn't say I'm superstitious; it's not like if I don't have it, I'm flipping out. But I'm a creature of habit, I guess is the best way to put it."
As he speaks at his locker, a grande cup bearing the Starbucks siren logo is cooling nearby. On this day, it contains a "Red Eye," coffee with an espresso shot added for some extra kick. Two sugars, no cream.
"I've got the same routine. I don't need to try to break it," Jeter said, before offering a slight grin. "Well, I guess I'll have to -- fairly soon."
We go back to the afternoon of Aug. 23, 2011, just after 3 p.m., and Jeter is walking out of a Starbucks location on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. His day has been uninterrupted by the rare minor earthquake that rattled windows and nerves around the island.
Jeter pays his tab, hops into the sport utility vehicle parked along First Avenue and completes the rest of the short commute to Yankee Stadium from his condominium in the Trump World Tower. He'll get three hits that night against the Athletics.
Inside the coffee shop, someone comments that the last customer plays shortstop for the Yankees. A mid-30s woman wearing business attire looks up from her iPhone, offers a slight nod and grunt, then returns to scrolling through her Facebook feed. An older gentleman sitting near the counter seems similarly nonchalant.
"A lot of times, I go to the same places, you know what I mean?" Jeter said. "A lot of times, it's the same people working. People get used to seeing me."
The sheer volume of Starbucks locations makes it Jeter's go-to.
"I don't really have to seek it out," he said. "I pretty much know where it is. They're all over the place."
It is now Tuesday, and Jeter has 13 games remaining in his farewell season. A parking lot dotted with palm trees sits in a trendy neighborhood of Tampa, Fla., making an easy stop between Jeter's Davis Islands home and Tropicana Field.
Under the green outdoor awning, women in dresses and men in T-shirts chat over lattes, while inside, the rhythmic clicking of MacBook keyboards meshes with a funky Marvin Gaye classic. The mention of Jeter's name triggers recognition, but not excitement.
"He comes in here fairly regularly," said Christine Sanchez, a 22-year-old Tampa resident working her barista shift. "He sits outside with his friends. People are pretty nonchalant about it. I think that's why he comes here, because he can relax."
She also offers this caveat: "I'm not a Yankees fan. [Rays manager] Joe Maddon comes in a lot, too."
"We never walk into the counter together at the same time," Maddon said earlier this year. "We don't call in advance. So he's normally sitting outside with Gerald Williams, who's also a great guy. So I just walk by, give the quick nod, quick conversation."
Usually, the baristas don't ask for his name, though last year Jeter departed a Greenwich Village outlet with "Philip" scrawled on the side of his cup -- an event caught by a New York Post photographer.
In response, then-teammate Phil Hughes playfully shared an Instagram picture of his own iced coffee order bearing Jeter's middle name, Sanderson.
"The first time I was ever in that one is when they asked for a name," Jeter said, with a sigh. "I guess I must've said Philip, and then when I went back in, there they just wrote it on there. I didn't know it was on there. I don't remember; I was probably in there with a friend of mine. Slow news day."
Sanchez confirms that Jeter often orders a "Red Eye," but he alters his order on occasion. She said that with his retirement approaching, their location "probably" will be taking many more of his orders soon.
"I really wasn't a coffee drinker," Jeter said. "When I was younger, I just never really liked the taste of it. So it started with those iced drinks with the chocolate chips in it. Now it's just black coffee, a little bit of sugar, no cream. I'm turning into my dad, I think."
It may seem surprising that after 20 years in the big leagues, Jeter still can slip in and out of a public place without being delayed. But the baseball schedule generally lets him avoid early-morning and lunchtime crushes, and so this has become arguably the most regular part of his day.
Time it right, and you just might see a five-time World Series winner in line with construction workers, police officers, nurses or high school students. To borrow a line from a popular magazine: Stars, they're just like us, indeed.
"I've met a lot of people, taken a lot of pictures, but I'm not complaining by any stretch of the imagination," Jeter said. "I'm a homebody, so that's why a lot of times if you see pictures, it's usually me with a Starbucks cup in my hand, most of the time."