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Joe Girardi says Ernie Banks a great player and human

Joe Girardi stands in the dugout during the

Joe Girardi stands in the dugout during the first inning of a game against the Texas Rangers. (July 22, 2013) Credit: AP

Joe Girardi gave his highest endorsement Wednesday to Ernie Banks, one of his heroes, who was named a 2013 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor presented to American civilians.

"Special guy. Obviously, being a Cub fan and being a Cub, I got to cheer for him a lot and see him a lot," Girardi said. "He was always upbeat, loved the game of baseball. It was interesting. He always encouraged me to go back and get my master's. I was like, 'Ernie I really don't want to go back to school, I've had enough of that -- even though I really promote it.'

"He's always joking about 'Let's play two.' We used to get on him and say, 'Ernie you want to play two because you had three hits in the first game. Go 0-for-4, 0-for-5 and see if you want to play another game," Girardi said. "He's just a great player and a great human. I'm really blessed to know him."

No hard feelings about the advice about the master's degree, which might have prevented Girardi from becoming a manager. He will be proud when Banks receives the medal in November from Barack Obama, whom Banks admits he once advised against running for president.

Jeter still Tampa bound

Derek Jeter took batting practice and did some running in the outfield. He will go to the Yankees complex in Tampa this weekend when the club goes to Boston. Girardi said there is no definite timetable for his return. When Jeter came out for the start of his workout -- more than an hour before the Angels were scheduled for their batting practice -- Mike Trout came out just to say hello to the Yankees captain and give him a hug.

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