Jeter gets presidential sendoff from Bush in Texas
Retiring shortstop feted in pregame ceremony in final Arlington appearance
ARLINGTON -- By now, Derek Jeter is used to the celebrations, the pregame festivities that opposing teams honor him with in his final stops at their ballparks. Typically, he knows what to expect. But that wasn't fully the case Wednesday night when the Rangers honored the shortstop by surprising him with a special on-field presentation from the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush.
Bush, a former managing partner of the Rangers from 1989-1994, had just been on the video board a few minutes earlier, smiling as he recounted the advice Jeter had given him before he threw the first pitch of Game 3 of the 2001 World Series. Seven weeks removed from the 9/11 attacks, Bush was hoping his presence in Yankee Stadium would be a calming one to the American people that night.
"Don't bounce it," Jeter had told him. "They'll boo you."
Jeter laughed Wednesday, standing next to former Rangers All-Stars Michael Young and Ivan Rodriguez, only to see Bush enter the field from the Rangers' dugout area seconds later. Bush smiled, giving the baseball icon a signed photo taken in the indoor batting cage before he threw the first pitch that October night in New York.
Jeter didn't expect the on-field surprise.
"I had heard he was coming to the stadium, but I didn't know he was going on the field," Jeter said. "That's a pretty special feeling, when you have a President come out and give you something to honor you. That's definitely a memory I'll have for a long time. I'll be able to brag to a lot of different people."
Rodriguez and Young presented Jeter with a $10,000 donation from the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation to go toward his Turn 2 Foundation, and he also received a pair of Lucchese Italian goat leather cowboy boots. The boots had his name, number and the Yankees' logo on them to have something to remember Texas by.
Jeter was asked if the surprise visit by President Bush was more meaningful than the gifts.
"It's an experience, you know what I mean?" said Jeter. "That's a gift within itself. Not too many people can say they've had the President come out and honor them in a ceremony. It meant a lot to me."
"I think you have to have a pretty special guy in order to have a ceremony like that," Young said. " In a lot of ways, Derek's kind of a cultural icon in this country, not necessarily just a Hall of Fame baseball player. But you have to be a pretty special guy in order to get that kind of a sendoff. I think Chipper [Jones] got it a lot, Cal Ripken Jr. of course, Mariano [Rivera], Derek -- giants of the game."
Jeter entered his final game in Globe Life Park on Wednesday batting .333 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs through 72 regular-season games there. He's played seven playoff games at the park -- in the American League Division Series in 1996, 1998 and 1999, and the AL Championship Series in 2010.
"He's an unbelievable player. When I'm not playing against him, I love to watch him play -- the things that he does, the things that he did in the field," Rodriguez said. "If there's a way to teach a kid how to hit a baseball, that's the best way to teach a kid how to hit a baseball."
Grace Raynor is an associate reporter for MLB.com.