TAMPA, Fla. - It didn't take long for the tributes to flow after Derek Jeter's announcement Wednesday afternoon.
And they didn't let up as day turned into night.
"It has been an incredible honor having a front-row seat for one of the great players of all time," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "Derek has been a winner every step of the way."
Jeter, who turns 40 in June, kept his plan of making this season his last a secret to almost all. There were no leaks, no hints, only a call Wednesday morning to managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner that he planned to break the news on his Facebook page early in the afternoon.
"I was surprised, yes," Mariano Rivera said on the Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio.
Rivera thought Jeter would play through this season and "see how it goes."
Rivera and Jeter were teammates in 1993 with Class-A Greensboro and the shortstop struggled during a 56-error campaign. Still . . .
"All along since I saw him for the first time, I knew that Derek was special," Rivera said. "You knew you had something special with him."
Joe Torre felt the same way while managing Jeter from 1996-2007, winning four World Series in the first five years.
"He never let me down as far as his responsible nature and just really [being] bent on winning," Torre said Wednesday during an appearance on SiriusXM's Mad Dog Sports Radio. "I mean, that was the only thing that was important . . . When the bell rang he was ready and he certainly never looked back from there."
Jeter, Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte comprised the famed Core Four of the late 90s dynasty. Posada retired after the 2011 season and Pettitte and Rivera retired after last year.
"It was an honor and privilege to have Derek next to me for all those years," Posada said in a statement released by the team Wednesday night. "He made me a better player and a better person. I'm so proud of our friendship and I love him like a brother. Derek was a true champion and the greatest teammate I ever had."
Bernie Williams, a Yankee his entire career from 1991-2006, said: "I'm so happy that Derek will get to go out on his terms -- and his way. He was as special a teammate as any player could ever have. I'm blessed to have played with him."
New York's other baseball captain had high praise for his counterpart. "I was fortunate as a young player in this town to be able to watch how Derek Jeter conducted himself on and off the field," David Wright said in a statement from the Mets. "I've always been a big Derek Jeter fan for what he has done on the baseball field. I became an even bigger fan after getting to know Derek and learning there is more to this game than what goes on between the lines. Excluding the Subway Series, I wish him all the best in his final season."
In a statement released by Major League Baseball, commissioner Bud Selig said: "In the 21-plus years in which I have served as Commissioner, Major League Baseball has had no finer ambassador than Derek Jeter. He is one of the most accomplished and memorable players of his -- or any -- era. Derek is the kind of person that generations have emulated proudly, and he remains an exemplary face of our sport."
Rays manager Joe Maddon, whose team had a view from the visitor's dugout the afternoon of Jeter's 3,000th hit -- a home run off David Price -- always has been among the shortstop's biggest fans.
"They created the Hall of Fame for players like him," Maddon said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
No Hall of Famer has ever been elected unanimously, something Maddon indicated should change for Jeter.
"Never a doubt, totally earned," Maddon said. "He may be the first 100-percenter."
Maddon's All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria gave voice to Jeter's reputation among pretty much every player.
"Derek has been the benchmark for character and class in a baseball uniform," Longoria told the Tampa Bay Times. "He has inspired a generation to play baseball the way it was meant to be played. It has been an honor to play against him."