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PAWTUCKET â 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.
âI hadnât seen him in a while, but the first thing I thought of when I saw him was âMan, heâs a classy individual,ââ DiSarcina expressed. âIn my mind, he and Cal Ripken Jr. were the torchbearers. Cal handed it over to him, and not because Derek won, but itâs the way he won.
âLike I said to his face the other day, Derek was one of the guys you hated to play against, but when youâre done playing, you just love watching him play. Heâs everything thatâs good and pure about this game,â DiSarcina continued. âHeâs 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 doesnât know Jeter personally, though itâs 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.
âI used it as a motivational tool because I wanted to play better than that shortstop that night,â DiSarcina said. âAt the same time, I would pick up things from that other shortstop â what he was doing that I liked and things that he didnât do that I liked. Whether it was Jeter, Ripken or Alan Trammell, I always watched those guys.â
Jeter officially burst on the major league scene on May 29, 1995. His first game at Yankee Stadium came four days later with DiSarcinaâs 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.
âWhen 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,â DiSarcina recalled. âPlaying against him, I couldnât 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.
âHe would do the little things like bunt and hit-and-run âŠ he was a team player,â DiSarcina added. âI think the world of him now that Iâm not playing against him.â
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.
âThe body frame is still there, but heâs a bigger guy. Thereâs wear on his tires and heâs not as quick, but he still has the same actions,â said DiSarcina. âI 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.
âI mean, heâs 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,â DiSarcina went on. âFor 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.â
DiSarcina was not around Jeter on a day-to-day basis when Jeter was climbing through the Yankeesâ 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.
âYou 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,â said DiSarcina. âThey follow you and are excited to see you play and to hear what the scouts and TV pundits are saying.â
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.
âIn Derekâs rookie year, he was around veterans such as Wade Boggs and Paul OâNeill. Xander is around a great group of guys too â guys who are going to take care of him,â said DiSarcina.
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