SEATTLE -- Derek Jeter has fond memories of Seattle because it was here -- or at least at Safeco Field's predecessor, the Kingdome -- that he collected the first two of his 3,371 major league hits on May 30, 1995.
So Wednesday, in a pregame ceremony to honor his retirement at the end of the season, Seattle gave Jeter a memory he can take home with him -- an original seat from the Kingdome and a commemorative base from Safeco for his final series in Seattle, as well as a check for $5,000 for his Turn 2 Foundation. Robinson Cano also presented his ex-teammate with a gift, a watch in an ornate wooden box.
Before the game, Jeter acknowledged the special place Seattle holds in his memory bank. "This is where it all began," he said, referring to his major league debut on May 29, 1995, when he went 0-for-5. "So every time I come here, that’s the memory that comes to mind first. I know it’s been quite some time, but I’ve always enjoyed coming here to Seattle."
Cano also paid tribute to Jeter in an interview session before the game, calling him “a guy that you have to appreciate everything about him. Only with his presence, he can change the energy in the clubhouse. The guy is a leader. He’s played the game for a long time. He’s maybe one of 1,000 guys that come and play this game, be that successful, never get in trouble and always play the game the right way.”
Cano was accompanied on the field by King Felix Hernandez, who presented Jeter with the check, as well as retired Mariners Edgar Martinez and Jay Buehner, also a former Yankee. A brief video tribute was played on the scoreboard showing Jeter's first career hit, a ground single to left off Tim Belcher in the fifth inning. Two innings later, Jeter singled off Belcher again.
"You're extremely nervous when you come up," Jeter said of that first series. "I'd never played in a dome. It was sort of a weight off your shoulders to get that first one, because a lot of times the first of anything is the most difficult."
Jeter's memory of his first big league game the night before was slightly different.
"I was 0-for-5, and after the game my dad was in town and we tried to get something to eat, and everything was closed, so we ended up walking to a McDonald’s," he said. "They’re here again today, both of my parents, so maybe we'll wind up at McDonald's again."