Thanks, Captain

July 20, 2014 Posted by admin

This was All-Star week for Major League Baseball. Normally, it’s a time when the Old Coach takes a couple of days off from watching first pitch to extra inning walk-off Orioles games to catch up on my reading, gardening and napping. I have made it a point over the years to avoid watching sports all-star games because they are invariably dull and meaningless, much like the Country Music Awards, the Academy Awards and the Miss Universe Pageants.

Come on, Coach. Don’t you at least watch the swimsuit competition?

Only if it happens between innings.

But this year was different. The Old Coach couldn’t resist tuning in to the 2014 Derek Jeter Farewell Tour, complete with grooved pitches, base hits and slips of the tongue by National League starter Adam Wainwright. Let me start by saying that I have great respect for Jeter, one of the few Yankees about whom I can say that. I admire the shortstop for his consistent play over almost 20 big league seasons, all with the same club — which is a remarkable accomplishment in the modern sports era. No doubt, he will be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

“The Captain” has had a distinguished 18-year career with more than 3,400 hits, a lifetime batting average of .311, 14 All-Star Game appearances, five Gold Glove Awards, five Silver Slugger Awards and a Rookie of the Year Award in 1996. But Jeter, also known to fans as “Captain Clutch” and “Mr. November,” at 40 years old, recognized his diminishing productivity the past five years and wisely decided to retire after the 2014 season. After his ankle injury at the end of the 2012 season limited his games to just 17 last year, it was obvious Jeter is a step slower and a tad late with his bat.

When the Old Coach was down at spring training in March and attended an Orioles/Yankees game, it was fairly obvious the New York star was fading fast. His signature effort was still there, but he wasn’t able to make the same plays that earned him all of those Gold Gloves. And once feared as a hitter you didn’t want to face with the game on the line, now he is just an average batter.

That brings us to Tuesday night’s All-Star Game. Coach’s Corner totally understands why the fans overwhelmingly voted Jeter to start for the American League. A player of his caliber and consistency has earned the honor. But with the significance of the winner of the game achieving home-field advantage for his league champion in the World Series, there is a lot at stake in besting the other league. When one league uses a designated hitter and the other doesn’t, there has to be an advantage for the team that gets four home games in a possible seven-game series. Perhaps MLB should scrap the fan vote deciding the starters and just come up with selections made by team managers or a committee of Hall of Fame players.

As far as the Wainwright revelation about giving Jeter “a couple of pipe shots” in his first at-bat, the Old Coach is disappointed in the St. Louis hurler. His statement could be taken as an insult by Jeter. In an all-star game, you should give your best effort, regardless of who is at the plate. Giving any player for any reason an easy pitch to hit is not in the true spirit of the game. I’m sure Jeter was expecting Wainwright to do his darnedest to induce an out. That’s how the game is played.

And who knows, maybe Jeter, ever the epitome of competitive drive and sense for the dramatic, might well have hit Wainwright’s best fastball into the stands.

Thanks, Derek Jeter, for 18 years of playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played and doing it with a smile.

Hal Grau coached various sports for 36 years at Frederick, Thomas Johnson, Catoctin, Walkersville and Linganore High Schools. Email him at

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