The pressure Derek Jeter admitted lying about was off when he arrived at the clubhouse Sunday morning after becoming the first in Yankees history to reach 3,000 hits with a performance that already seems mythic -- a home run for the milestone and a game-winning single to top a 5-for-5 day.
Asked if he could relax after orchestrating the big moment in front of the home crowd, Jeter said: "Yeah, no question. To have to come today and try to get hits, it would have been a little bit more difficult."
Jeter got that right. His third-inning bunt was one of only four Yankees hits off James Shields in a 1-0 victory over the Rays. It almost seemed as if both teams were out of offensive ammunition after the previous day's emotionally charged game.
Jeter said he celebrated strictly with family and friends, "but not too much, because I don't recover like I used to."
The afterglow of his brilliant performance was sweetened by text messages from many former teammates. He spoke to Dave Winfield and said he was welcomed to the 3,000-hit club by the Cardinals' Stan Musial, who sent a message via Reggie Jackson.
When Jeter got to the clubhouse, 86-year-old icon Yogi Berra was waiting with open arms. With a smile, Jeter said: "He got me when I came in. It's always good to see Yogi. He said, 'Come here. Let me give you a hug.' "
Jeter said his bat was confiscated for the Hall of Fame immediately after his home run, and he still is uncertain about which artifacts he will be allowed to keep. The most important thing will be the memory, but Jeter said it was too soon to reflect because he was just over an hour away from playing his next game.
That time limit didn't constrain his teammates.
"I got emotional because I felt like I was part of it," said Jorge Posada, one of Jeter's closest friends. "I felt like I was doing it. For me, he's like my brother."
Second baseman Robinson Cano, who said Jeter has taken him under his wing from the beginning of his career, said he was thrilled when Jeter hit a home run for No. 3,000.
"Oh, man," Cano said, "it's something that only two guys have done . . . . I feel like that was me yesterday. He hit that ball and I was like, 'Wow, he got it.'
"Everybody was waiting for that moment. It was like the last out of the World Series the way the fans applauded every at-bat and stand up and cheer for him, which is really good. With a guy like him who has five championships here and has played 15 years in New York, you want to see how much people appreciate what you've done for them . . . That's got to be one of the best games and the loudest game I've ever been in in my life."
Jeter said he's still not playing in the All-Star Game, so he'll have some quiet time to soak it all in.