Marketing Derek Jeter's farewell a serious task for Brandon Steiner

American League All-Star Derek Jeter acknowledges the crowd American League All-Star Derek Jeter acknowledges the crowd after being pulled in the fourth inning during the 85th MLB All-Star Game at Target Field on July 15, 2014 in Minneapolis. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Rob Carr

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept. ...

Brandon Steiner had been working as Phil Rizzuto's marketing agent for several years by 1996, but Scooter never had recommended another client to him.

One day early that year, though, the former Yankees shortstop and then-TV analyst asked, "You got Jeter?"

"I didn't even know if this kid was going to start," Steiner recalled. "He said, 'Steiner, don't be a huckleberry. I'm telling you this is a special kid and he is going to be much better than me. You better go and get him.' "

Soon thereafter, Steiner did just that, the start of a partnership that has lasted 18 years, done well for all concerned and helped generate what Steiner estimated to be at least $4 million to $5 million for Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation.

"It's been really humbling, frankly, just because I know I pinch myself and say, wow, I got this guy right from the beginning and was able to stick with him right to the end," said Steiner, whose company has been a Yankees partner since 2005.

The end, at least of Jeter's playing career, is growing nearer, an irresistible opportunity for Steiner and other entities with marketing stakes in No. 2's farewell tour.

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That includes MLB itself, the players association, the Yankees and naturally Nike, whose Jordan Brand kicked off the post-All-Star Game stretch with a 90-second ad called "RE2PECT" that became an Internet and TV sensation this week.

It all started with Steiner, though, and his company is geared up for Jeter's final months in pinstripes.

Steiner, who at times has been criticized and / or mocked for some of his, um, creative collectibles ideas, said that because of Jeter's image it is important to choose products carefully.

"No question," he said. "I think it's probably one of the most exciting opportunities I've gotten in my career, but I take the responsibility extremely seriously . . . I really try to check over the quality and make sure things are done in a first-class, tasteful manner."

Dirt often figures in Steiner's product line. This is no exception.

"We'll create a whole bunch of dirt promotions," he said.

In fact, later this month, he plans to offer a free capsule of infield dirt from Jeter's last season simply for registering on Steiner Sports' website. Is he concerned about running out? "No,'' he said, "there's a lot of dirt."

A framed collage from Tuesday's All-Star Game that includes dirt from Target Field already is available on the site for $69.99.

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The cost figures to be higher for dirt from the shortstop area after Jeter's final game -- whenever and wherever that is this autumn.

No one is sure what the saturation point is, assuming there is one. Jeter ranks No. 1 in jersey sales on MLB's website this season even though he is 40 and the Yankees' uniform never changes.

During a phone interview yesterday, Steiner had to take a break to accept a call from a team owner's wife -- whom he did not name -- who was looking to buy a Jeter-related "something special."

Steiner worked with Mariano Rivera during his final season in 2013 and said it was not until after the All-Star Game at Citi Field that his marketing profile "really started to take off, whereas Derek was already at that level."

He called Jeter the "No. 1 collectibles baseball player of all time" and hopes their partnership lasts long after his final game as a player.

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Jeter figures to be marketable for life, especially if his autograph-signing hand remains in good working order.

"Derek Jeter had a lot of choices; he didn't have to pick me," Steiner said. "So I'm just very grateful."

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