MOOSIC, Pa. - There was something different about the player taking his cuts during Scranton/Wilkes-Barre batting practice.
As country music played over the PNC Field speakers, all eyes were on the guy wearing a Yankees helmet and pants that went down to his shoes instead of sitting up high like his teammates. But the stares weren't because of his uniform.
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It's not every day that a future Hall of Famer plays at the Triple-A level. Derek Jeter, on the disabled list since Aug. 5 because of a right calf strain, was part of the RailRiders for three consecutive games as he prepared to return to the Yankees.
Counting an earlier rehab assignment in July, Jeter has played seven games with the Triple-A affiliate, two more than he has played with the Yankees in 2013. But his days in Scranton are over, as he is set to rejoin the Yankees in Toronto on Monday.
Last night, though, he still was the No. 2 hitter in the RailRiders' lineup. "He's very popular and plays for the big-league team, the Yankees,'' a woman told her two grandchildren during batting practice. "He was hurt and that's why he's here. But when he gets better, he'll be back with the Yankees.''
During Jeter's stay in Scranton, the fans who flocked to PNC Field (capacity 10,000) weren't the only ones who observed the franchise icon in awe.
"I think out of everyone I've played with, I like picking his brain the most,'' said RailRiders shortstop Addison Maruszak, who replaced Jeter in each game after he reached his prescribed innings cap. "I've been around a lot of great people like Tino Martinez and Mariano Rivera. But out of all of them, baseball-wise, I learn from Jeter the most.''
For Maruszak, 26, who has spent six seasons in the minors, the studying of Jeter continues away from the diamond. "It's good that he's in the lineup,'' he said, "but more importantly, for me and I think for everybody in here, is to watch what he does off the field and in practice and see how he goes about it all.''
He added, "We've all seen him play when we were younger and seen him bust it and make plays, but from our aspect, we're trying to do what he does.''
Maruszak, who went 1-for-2 Saturday night and is batting .255, was impressed with the fact that the captain of the Yankees simply does what works for him and what he's comfortable with.
"He goes about his business and does his thing," he said. "If someone spots something, in his head, he's probably thinking yes or no. Either no, I tried what you're telling me and it doesn't work, or yes, I'll try that and thank you for telling me.''
(Of course, guys like Maruszak who don't have more than 3,000 big-league hits don't have that option.)
While Jeter was in town, chances for Maruszak to work on anything during the games were limited. Jeter occupied a spot in the lineup card and a position in the field that could've been Maruszak's.
"You could always think like that, which is going to pop into everyone's mind because everyone is human,'' he said. "But in the end, we're all trying to get somewhere. So while he's here, I'm thinking to myself, OK, well, if he's going to be here and take at-bats away from me, I'm going to pick his brain and watch what he does and see if I can get better just by watching and talking to him.''
Maruszak noted that Jeter has been friendly and approachable. Jeter, in typical Jeter fashion, downplayed the idea that his presence can benefit minor-leaguers. "A lot of guys seem to be playing well here,'' he said, "and they played well before I got here.''
But for Maruszak, Jeter's presence in Scranton has been invaluable.
"I'd rather give up 15 or 20 at-bats and learn from him than do 20 things that I already know haven't worked out for me,'' Maruszak said. "It's beneficial.''