On Thursday night Sept 25, I drove my beat up 1997 Chevy Malibu from Petaluma High School, back to my house in Penngrove. The top of the ninth inning between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles had just begun with the Yankees ahead, 5-2. This would be the last time Derek Jeter wore the navy blue Yankee pinstripes in the Bronx. He played the first 14 years in a Yankee uniform at “The House that Ruth Built,” but this modern-version of the classic cathedral where Jeter would walk into the Yankee tunnel one last time, was “The House that Jeter Built.”
Casa Grande High School head baseball coach Paul Maytorena usually doesn’t use Major League Baseball players as a model for his players because of the vast differences in the games. For the first fall baseball game of his team’s season, Mayortena used one player as his model.
“I asked the guys, ‘Tell me what you got from Jeter playing the game.’ The first thing someone said was, ‘Respect for the game.’ The next one was, ‘He played the game the right way.’ That’s a guy I could use as a model for the kids.”
My phone sat on my lap, speaker-phone on, wanting to honk at the lady going at a snail’s pace in front of me, but the only noise I wanted to hear was my dad’s voice giving me the play-by-play of the inning. I knew with a solid three-run lead and one of the best closers in the game, my goal would be to see the last out or at least have my dad, who taught me how to play baseball, be the voice of Jeter’s last play in Yankee Stadium.
Leading off for the Orioles was right-fielder Nick Markakis. Yankees closer David Robertson walks him, never a good start to an inning, but still a three-run lead is plenty. Next batter up, Alejandro De Aza, strikes out looking. Okay, only two more outs for Jeter, I have to get home for this. Adam Jones stepped into the box next and pulled a ball 395 feet over the left-field wall, making it a 5-4 game. Well, at least I have more time to get home now and maybe see the end. The biggest slugger in Baltimore’s lineup, Nelson Cruz, was fanned swinging, making it a two-out, one-run game. Then, Mr. Breakout Player, Steve Pearce, continued his heroics for the Orioles with a 399-foot blast to left field, tying the game at five runs apiece. You have got to be kidding me. I couldn’t believe a word my dad was telling me.
First thought: “There’s no way they can blow this game for Jeter.” Second thought: “Wait a minute, Jeter’s up third this inning.” Get me home! David Robertson must know what he’s doing, right?
JJ Hardy flew out to center field for the last out, and I drove up our gravel driveway right as the bottom of the ninth inning started. Leading off the inning, rookie Jose Pirela, who I, admittedly, had never heard of until that at-bat, smacked a single by the third baseman that rolled to left field, and I officially began to get nervous. Antoan Richardson pinch-ran for Pirela, and Brett Gardner came to bat. With perfect execution, Gardner laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving Richardson to second base with one out.