David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991. Show More
MINNEAPOLIS - Every All-Star was interrogated about Derek Jeter during Monday's media-palooza at the Hyatt Regency. Multiple times.
Often it was the same question, just phrased in a different way. What can you tell us about Jeter? Nothing was too small or insignificant.
When it was Adam Jones' turn to be squeezed for a Jeter nugget, a reporter asked the Orioles outfielder what he'd like to talk to the Yankees' captain about at his 14th and final All-Star Game.
"How do you keep your life so private?" Jones said, smiling. "No one knows anything about him. It's a great secret. We know nothing about Derek Jeter, besides what Wikipedia tells you. That's awesome.''
Jones is right. Jeter is the Batman of baseball superheroes, the enigmatic champion of Gotham.
Everyone can tell you about the pinstriped Jeter from what the future Hall of Famer has done on the field, in plain view, with a bat and glove. But once he's back in street clothes, Jeter can be a ghost, which in this Twitter era is more amazing than any jump-throw from the leftfield grass he's ever made.
He's always leaving the public panting for more because we get him for only three hours a night, six or seven months a year. For two decades, those have been a great three hours. And when Jeter takes the field Tuesday night, it will be down to four or five innings -- if we're lucky enough to see him for that long.
The other All-Stars will feel just like you watching at home. They're anticipating something historic -- similar to Mariano Rivera's goose-bumpy tribute last July at Citi Field -- and wondering what the Derek Jeter Moment will be.
"To me, that was the most special part about coming here,'' the Rays' David Price said.
Price beamed as he spoke about giving up Jeter's 3,000th hit. It's not very often that teeing up a homer becomes a source of pride for a pitcher, but he sounded thrilled to be linked with one of the sport's immortals.
When asked if there is anyone he respects more than Jeter, Price shook his head. "Outside my parents and family and teammates,'' he said, "probably not.''
But what is the proper send-off for someone like Jeter, a wildly popular but intensely private player, one who has let the record and rings do most of the talking for him? Well, thanks to Rivera, we learned that even a stage as glitzy as the All-Star Game, a dressed-up exhibition, can produce genuine emotion.
"One day, when I have kids, I can tell them that I played with Derek Jeter,'' the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen said. "I look forward to that. Hopefully, I can get to second base so I have a chance to talk to him.''
For an opposing player, that's usually the best shot at an audience with Jeter. The few feet of dirt around the bag is as close as many of them can get to him, although once they get there, he enjoys chatting and joking around. But other than teammates who speak glowingly of his behind-the-scenes consults or tutelage, cracking Jeter's inner circle is more difficult than hitting Clayton Kershaw.
Which seems to be fine for his many big-league admirers.
"Actions speak louder than words,'' said the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki, who grew up idolizing Jeter and wears No. 2 in his honor. "I've learned more from watching him work than any conversations we've had.''
Jeter has rebounded from a lengthy ankle rehab to play 83 of the Yankees' first 96 games and stay healthy enough, at 40, to take the final All-Star bow he deserves. The one that everybody else has wanted.
"I'm very excited about it,'' said the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright, who will pitch to Jeter for the first time. "Just to be able to say I faced the best.''
That's what it all boils down to with Jeter: baseball, in its most elemental form. Played in a professional manner, at its highest level, with the utmost respect for the game. To truly appreciate Jeter, is there anything else you really need to know?
Why would you? He's been answering that question, on the field, for the past 20 years.