PAWTUCKET ‚ÄĒ For PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina, seeing Derek Jeter propel himself through the rehab process this past weekend helped conjure up one pleasant memory after another.
‚ÄúI hadn‚Äôt seen him in a while, but the first thing I thought of when I saw him was ‚ÄėMan, he‚Äôs a classy individual,‚Äô‚ÄĚ DiSarcina expressed. ‚ÄúIn my mind, he and Cal Ripken Jr. were the torchbearers. Cal handed it over to him, and not because Derek won, but it‚Äôs the way he won.
‚ÄúLike I said to his face the other day, Derek was one of the guys you hated to play against, but when you‚Äôre done playing, you just love watching him play. He‚Äôs everything that‚Äôs good and pure about this game,‚ÄĚ DiSarcina continued. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs been a standard bearer of the game and has done it the right way in a large market. He stayed out of trouble both on and off the field. You never hear anyone say a bad word about him."
DiSarcina doesn‚Äôt know Jeter personally, though it‚Äôs clear why the former would contain so much adoration for the latter. As an everyday shortstop for the Angels, DiSarcina would pay extra attention to his contemporary in the opposite dugout.
‚ÄúI used it as a motivational tool because I wanted to play better than that shortstop that night,‚ÄĚ DiSarcina said. ‚ÄúAt the same time, I would pick up things from that other shortstop ‚Äď what he was doing that I liked and things that he didn‚Äôt do that I liked. Whether it was Jeter, Ripken or Alan Trammell, I always watched those guys.‚ÄĚ
Jeter officially burst on the major league scene on May 29, 1995. His first game at Yankee Stadium came four days later with DiSarcina‚Äôs Angels serving as the opponent. The box score from the Angels-Yankees contest on June 2, 1995 revealed that Jeter and DiSarcina batted ninth for their respective ballclubs.
‚ÄúWhen he came up, he had first-step quickness and the range. He was a skinny kid, but he was young and fresh and had a ton of energy,‚ÄĚ DiSarcina recalled. ‚ÄúPlaying against him, I couldn‚Äôt stand him. He took hits away from us and was one of those if you hit a routine groundball to, you better make sure you make it clean and finish the play because he was going to run hard.
‚ÄúHe would do the little things like bunt and hit-and-run ‚Ä¶ he was a team player,‚ÄĚ DiSarcina added. ‚ÄúI think the world of him now that I‚Äôm not playing against him.‚ÄĚ
The sight of Jeter in a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre uniform for three games in Moosic, Pa. recently helped DiSarcina reinforce the sterling reputation that the New York captain has carved out.
‚ÄúThe body frame is still there, but he‚Äôs a bigger guy. There‚Äôs wear on his tires and he‚Äôs not as quick, but he still has the same actions,‚ÄĚ said DiSarcina. ‚ÄúI think he plays the game for the right reason. Watching him for the three games, he took unbelievable secondary reads and was in the right cutoff positions and encouraging his teammates.
‚ÄúI mean, he‚Äôs a Hall of Famer on a rehab assignment. Watching him do those little things just shows me that he plays the game for the right reasons. He enjoys baseball and the competition aspect,‚ÄĚ DiSarcina went on. ‚ÄúFor Derek to do it the way he did it on a rehab assignment proves what a special player he truly is. You saw it during batting practice and the way he interacted with his teammates and the opposition.‚ÄĚ
DiSarcina was not around Jeter on a day-to-day basis when Jeter was climbing through the Yankees‚Äô system. The Pawtucket skipper did get a taste of what life is like for a ballyhooed shortstop when Xander Bogaerts passed through McCoy Stadium on his way to joining the parent club.
‚ÄúYou can compare the outside noise that surrounded them, which I think stems from coming up in a big market and people knowing who you are,‚ÄĚ said DiSarcina. ‚ÄúThey follow you and are excited to see you play and to hear what the scouts and TV pundits are saying.‚ÄĚ
Another comparison DiSarcina made between Jeter and Bogaerts is the makeup of the big-league clubhouse each happened to set foot in upon getting promoted.
‚ÄúIn Derek‚Äôs rookie year, he was around veterans such as Wade Boggs and Paul O‚ÄôNeill. Xander is around a great group of guys too ‚Äď guys who are going to take care of him,‚ÄĚ said DiSarcina.
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