A middle-school teacher and Red Sox fan sitting among a crowd of baseball writers at the All-Star Game festivities Monday afternoon had some advice for National League starting pitcher Adam Wainwright.
“Let him hit it,” he shouted.
The teacher, among the 30 honored by baseball annually at the MidSummer Classic, was of course referring to the first batter Wainwright will face in Tuesday night’s 85th All-Star Game at Target Field: Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
A 14-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion set to retire at the end of this season, Jeter, 40, figures to receive plenty of salutes during his final All-Star Game. But Wainwright isn’t planning on grooving him anything.
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“He has proved to be good enough you don’t have to let him hit anything,” Wainwright said with a smile.
“You know what, I was telling my wife yesterday that this will be something I can always remember because I have never faced Derek in the regular season before. I’m very excited about it, just to say I faced the best.”
On Monday, a nearly two minute commercial produced by the Jordan Brand and made to honor Jeter began making the rounds on the internet. Set to air Tuesday during the game, it shows a variety of fans to players and even celebrities like Jay Z and Billy Crystal tipping their cap at the Yankees’ captain as a sign of respect.
Players weren’t revealing their plans of what they plan to do to honor Jeter during Tuesday’s game. But something similar to last season -- when Mariano Rivera played in his final All-Star Game -- is expected.
Angels left fielder Mike Trout, set to hit right behind Jeter in the AL lineup, grew up a Phillies and Jimmy Rollins fan in New Jersey. But he said he’s going to treasure being a part of Jeter’s last All-Star Game.
“I remember turning the TV on when I was kid and yeah the Yankees had a lot of great players, but you could tell he was the leader,” Trout said. “I don’t know who the face of baseball is going to be when he leaves.”
Said Red Sox and American League manager John Farrell: “We’re going to get to celebrate a player who is not only a champion, but a guy that sets the bar that I think all players should aspire to. This will be a day that I think many baseball fans that are either in the ballpark or watching will remember Derek’s last All-Star Game.’’
Jeter’s fond farewell will be the lead storyline Tuesday. But it won’t be the only one.
A collection of 31 first-time All-Stars were selected to play -- that’s the fourth-highest total ever. Among the All-Star rookies: Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez.
Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton technically doesn’t count toward that total since he was selected to the 2012 game. But Stanton didn’t play in it because of injury.
National League manager Mike Matheny made Stanton, who finished fourth among outfielders in the fan voting, his starting designated hitter and slotted him to bat fifth in the lineup. The Marlins haven’t had an All-Star starter since Hanley Ramirez in 2010.
“He is a pretty impressive guy and I think anybody who has to deal with him and watch the impact that he has on the game, impact he has on that lineup, you have to give a great deal of respect to not just the power, but the average, the eye, the ability to get on base, and the ability that he has to turn a game around in one pitch,” Matheny said.
“I don’t think I’ve seen anybody maybe since [Mark] McGwire that hits the ball as hard as Stanton does, and it’s nice to have him on our side for once.”
Alvarez said he hadn’t been told Monday if he would make an appearance or not in Tuesday’s game, but he is available to pitch. If he doesn’t get in the game Alvarez said he wouldn’t be upset.
Dodgers fans wouldn’t feel the same way if that happened to Clayton Kershaw. They were already a bit steamed Matheny picked his guy -- Wainwright (12-4, 1.82 ERA) -- instead of Kershaw (11-2, 1.78) to start Tuesday’s game.
Matheny defended his decision Monday saying “the numbers line up.”
“And it’s obvious that this is a high-caliber pitcher who I believe to some degree has never even been given the amount of respect that he’s due,” Matheny said of Wainwright. “So I’m honored to be able to put this title on him and watch what he does.”