07/13/09 5:25 PM ET
For Jeter and Mo, a decade of Classics
Trip to All-Star Game loses no importance in 10th season
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
When it comes to handling the Midsummer Classic, perhaps no one knows this annual practice better than the two veteran Yankees, who are enjoying their 10th All-Star selections this week -- the only active players to represent their current clubs that many times.
"We've been through a lot," Jeter said. "Mo and I came up together, we were sent down together on the same day, been to a lot of All-Star Games -- we sort of go hand in hand, I think. It would be kind of weird to not be with him, you know?"
The American League's starting shortstop and likely closer traveled to St. Louis on a charter flight on Sunday, joined by second-time All-Star Mark Teixeira, who will start at first base for the Junior Circuit.
Between the media frenzies, team workouts and the celebratory parade that leads up to the actual game, Jeter and Rivera have the nooks and crannies down. It makes for one more experience the highly successful pair will be able to share together.
"I've been together with Derek for so many years -- the Minor Leagues, and we came up to the big leagues," said Rivera. "The most important thing that I admire is how we were capable to stay in for all these years with the organization, doing the job. We just tried to be the best."
On that plane from the West Coast, Teixeira said that he had time to chat with Rivera about the upcoming All-Star experience. Their discussion soon traveled to the dynasty years of 1996-2000, when the Yankees won four World Series titles and essentially owned the city.
"I got to talk with Mo a lot," Teixeira said. "We just talked about New York and how special it was when they were winning. The All-Star Game is kind of old hat for these guys -- they've done it so much that it's just, 'Hey, it's July; let's go to the All-Star Game!'"
"It was a nice time," Rivera added. "I was sharing how we did it in those years and what we accomplished. Tex is a tremendous ballplayer. We haven't had a [defensive] first baseman like that in a long time, since Tino [Martinez]."
Jeter was the AL's leading vote-getter for the first time, earning a total of 4,851,899 fan votes in securing the third straight year a Yankees player has led the AL in voting; Alex Rodriguez did so in 2007 and '08.
"I don't know if you can really say it's more special," Jeter said. "Your first All-Star Game is always something that you're going to have great memories from. I remember coming and being in awe, because a lot of the guys I was playing with, I grew up watching on TV. Now, I'm hearing the same thing from some of these guys. It's funny how that comes full circle."
The 35-year-old Jeter completed the first half of the season batting .321 with 18 doubles, 10 homers, 37 RBIs and 17 stolen bases for the Yankees. He has marked his 14th consecutive season with 10 or more homers, becoming one of six players to accomplish the feat as a member of the Yankees.
|"If you look at the last 10 or 15 years in baseball, you think of the best closer of this generation, and it's Mariano Rivera. You think of the best shortstop of this generation, and people think of Derek Jeter. You have two guys playing in New York who are really good friends, and it's pretty special."|
|-- Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira|
"It's an honor," Jeter said. "Throughout the years, we've had so many great shortstops in the American League. To be able to be a part of it for 10 years is something that I never imagined."
The 39-year-old Rivera, who became the second player in Major League history to record 500 saves on June 28, was tabbed in player balloting to serve in the AL's bullpen.
"They're all special, but definitely this one, I take a little bit more," Rivera said. "It's 10 -- it's not nine or eight. You've been pitching for so many years and giving so much of your quality and time to be able to be on this team. Definitely, this is special."
Rivera is 1-2 with a 2.43 ERA and 23 saves in 24 opportunities, limiting opponents to 30 hits in 37 innings while striking out 43 and walking just three batters.
Rivera has recorded three saves in All-Star play to tie Dennis Eckersley's all-time record. Probably more importantly, Rivera and Jeter have each earned the universal respect of their teammates as classy professionals and leaders.
"I believe the reason why they say that is the way we treat the game and our colleagues," Rivera said. "They're trying to do a job also. I always give them my respect, and maybe they like that."
Teixeira's only previous All-Star appearance came in 2005, when he was with the Rangers. To make it this time, the 29-year-old needed a late boost to overtake Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, as both the New York and Boston fans pushed hard.
"I've been very blessed," Teixeira said. "I did get off to a slow start, but I picked it up with probably one of the best streaks I've ever had in my career. Because of that, I think the fans really jumped on board."
The free-agent acquisition ended his first half as a Yankee batting .275 with 23 doubles, 21 home runs and 63 RBIs, a strong performance in its own right. But Teixeira is more than willing to take a pinstriped backseat to the round number Jeter and Rivera will enjoy this week.
"It's awesome," Teixeira said. "If you look at the last 10 or 15 years in baseball, you think of the best closer of this generation, and it's Mariano Rivera. You think of the best shortstop of this generation, and people think of Derek Jeter. You have two guys playing in New York who are really good friends, and it's pretty special."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.