Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Race to 3,000 Hits

This past Saturday, I was home for a grand total of about an hour. But I made that hour count, let me tell you.

Lately, my weekends have been just as busy as my weekdays, and usually filled with things like work This past weekend was no different, but I did manage to watch the one thing I told myself I wouldn't miss, no matter what.

The New York Yankees were playing the Tampa Bay Rays at 1:00, and the Yankees' captain, future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, was only 2 hits away from amassing 3,000 for his career.

That number is a magical one in baseball, along with 500 home runs, a .400 batting average, and 300 wins for a starting pitcher.

I've watched Derek Jeter since I was a kid, and I've grown up watching him play. I was in middle school (I think) when he broke into the Big Leagues, and Jeter's one of the first players that I've followed from the very beginning of his career.

Jeter has often said that Yankees fans watched him grow up, too, from an 18-year-old kid in the team's Minor League system to the 5-time World Champion he is today.

So the moment itself was going to be cool enough. But, because of my schedule, I just didn't think I'd be able to get in front of a TV to catch Jeter's historic at bat.

And that would have sucked.

But, as these things tend to go, it looked like I might just catch a break, after all. As I got in the car between running here and there, I caught John Sterling mentions Jeter's first at bat.

He'd singled in the first inning. He was one hit away.

The Yankees were up at that point, somewhere in the middle of their lineup, five or six spots away from Jeter hitting again. "Okay," I thought, "I might actually be able to see this live."

I figured that Jeter wouldn't hit in the current inning, so I would have these 3 outs, plus the Rays' turn at the plate in the top of the next inning. I was right. The Yankees' put a couple of guys on base before the inning ended.

The Rays would hit, and then the next inning would be Brett Gardner leading off, followed by Jeter.

"I can do this," I thought.

Well, of course, the Rays went down quickly in their half, and when the broadcast went to commercial and I had just reached the exit on the highway, my hopes started to sink.

I'd, a bit, on the highway just to get here. Now, with probably less than 5 minutes before Jeter's turn at the plate and at least 10 minutes before I could actually get in front of the closest TV...

Things weren't looking too good.

"Gardner needs to have a long at bat," I muttered as I gripped the wheel. Of course, he didn't. Before I could get halfway home, he had 2 strikes on him. Of course he did.

What happened next is probably best not spoken of, but somehow, some way, I burst through the front door just as Jeter was standing in the batter's box. After a long, tough at bat, Jeter launched a slider into the left-field seats and he rounded the bases as baseball's newest member of the 3,000 hit club.

What's more, I got to watch it with my father and my brother, as I've done for pretty much my entire life.

And that made the race (and the various speed limit laws I violated) worth it.

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