Cheers: Cardinals, fans salute retiring Yankees shortstop Jeter

News-DemocratMay 26, 2014 

— Derek Jeter was given a St. Louis sendoff Monday afternoon at Busch Stadium.

The retiring New York Yankees shortstop Jeter was welcomed by St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith during a pregame ceremony, and was presented with a $10,000 check to his Turn 2 Foundation and a pair of gold Stan Musial cufflinks.

The cufflinks were designed by local artist Don Wiegand and are not available to the general public. They depict a bas relief of Musial, the late Cardinals Hall of Famer who died in January 2013.

The trip to Busch Stadium was Jeter's third to St. Louis. He played against the Cardinals in 2005 at Busch Stadium II and also was an American League All-Star in 2009 at Busch Stadium III.

"There's a lot of history and a lot of tradition here in St. Louis," Jeter, 39, said before the game. "This is a baseball town. Everywhere you go, you see Cardinals stuff. It's a fun place to play from what I understand, what people have told me."

Jeter received a warm welcome from the capacity crowd on every at-bat. There was a large contingent of Yankees fans.

Jeter was pleased that Smith was part of the ceremony. Smith's final season in 1996 was Jeter's first full season.

"He's always treated me good, especially when I was a younger player," Jeter said. "He's a guy that I admire; I admire his career. When you're a young player, you remember how guys treat you, and Ozzie always treated me well."

Former Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan, now with the Yankees, said he tries not to abuse the opportunity to be around Jeter.

"I try not to talk his ear off," Ryan said. "I try to listen a little bit more. We have fun every day."

Like others, Ryan is amazed that Jeter has been able to play 20 years in New York without a tinge of controversy.

"That's hard to believe, even if you're the most boring guy on the planet," Ryan said. "In the big city, weird stuff comes up, weird questions get thrown at you. You answer one the wrong way and all of a sudden, you're the villain.

"He's obviously got a good head on his shoulders. It probably speaks to his parenting."

Jeter was asked what kind of advice he has tried to pass down to Ryan, 32.

"Brendan's older than me," cracked Jeter.

"I've enjoyed getting to know him," he said. "He's a fun guy to have on the team. We work a lot together, obviously, playing the same position. He's been fun, a fun guy to have around."

Reliever Randy Choate, in his second season with the Cardinals, lauded Jeter's character and work ethic.

"He never got in trouble and just always went about his business the right way," Choate said. "I think he set a great example of how you want to be a classy player. He always did what he had to do, and he did it the right way. He set a great example.

"He wanted to be a Yankee from the time he was drafted. I don't want to say he acts appropriate, but that's probably the best way to put it. He just knows how to handle the New York atmosphere, playing in a town like that with the media and the everyday constant pressure that you try not to put on yourself, but that is put on you because you're in New York."

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny played against Jeter several times as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays and the Cardinals.

"I got to see him quite a bit and nothing but respect for how he's gone about his business as a player," Matheny said. "It's very impressive, actually, to be in that market under that microscope and to carry himself and be such a great ambassador for the game. He's got a lot to be proud of.

"I think what impresses us most is the consistency and how he continues to go about it, how he always has. He's a real pro, a guy who plays the game the right way all the time."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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