NEW YORK // Mobbed by his pinstriped teammates after the ball sailed into the left-field seats, showered by ovations from his fans, Derek Jeter stood alone — the first New York Yankees player to reach 3,000 hits.
A fitting crown for the captain, on a sunny Saturday afternoon when it seemed he could do anything he wanted.
He lined his first home run of the year at Yankee Stadium. He tied a career high going 5 for 5. He singled home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning. And, for good measure, he stole a base.
"Something I will remember for the rest of my life," Jeter said.
With a swift swing of his shiny black bat, Jeter jolted himself into historic company, hitting a solo home run off the Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price in the third inning. He became the 28th Major League Baseball player to hit the mark and joined his former teammate Wade Boggs as the only players to do it with a home run.
Jeter watched the ball fly as he left the batter's box and gave a big clap as he rounded first base. Rays first baseman Casey Kotchman was the first to salute Jeter, doffing his cap as Jeter passed by.
"Hitting a home run was the last thing I was thinking about," Jeter said.
By then, all of Jeter's teammates were already celebrating in the dugout, raising their arms almost in unison. A special time for the shortstop who wears No 2 - his second hit of the game, and right at 2pm.
Plus, a win, 5-4 over their rivals.
He looked every bit like a spry 27-year-old with those bright green eyes and an even brighter future, rather than a 37-year-old shortstop with his best days behind him.
The ball, one of the specially marked ones put in play for the occasion, disappeared into a cluster of fans a few rows beyond the wall. Christian Lopez, sitting in Section 236, emerged with the valuable prize. He gladly gave the ball back to the Yankees so Jeter can have the memento, and the Yankees rewarded him with four tickets to every game for the rest of the season and autographed memorabilia.
"He earned it," the 23-year-old Lopez told the YES Network. "I'm not going to be the person to take that away from him."
True to his nature of staying focused on the game, Jeter briskly rounded the bases. When Boggs got his 3,000th, he knelt down and kissed home plate.
Not Jeter's style. But there was no way this moment would pass without plenty of fanfare.
His good friend and catcher Jorge Posada greeted Jeter with a bearhug after he crossed the plate. Closer Mariano Rivera and the rest of the Yankees were right behind, swallowing up Jeter before he could reach the dugout. The bullpen gate swung open, too, as New York's relievers came pouring in.
Jeter, still in the midst of a most difficult season, waved to the crowd several times, then clenched his fist and pointed up to the box where his father and girlfriend, actress Minka Kelly, were sitting. His father was in attendance — his mother and sister were absent, attending a christening.
"It was tremendous," Jeter's father, Charles, told YES. "I can't describe how I was feeling. We need a victory, first of all. ... Very emotional for me, very happy for him."
All the Yankees greats left their distinct marks. Babe Ruth set the home run record, Lou Gehrig became the Iron Horse, Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 straight games, Yogi Berra won the most championships, Mickey Mantle launched the longest drives. They all won World Series rings, certainly, with Jeter owning five.
The 3,000 hits, that will be Jeter's legacy forever.
Whenever Jeter retires, a plaque in Monument Park is guaranteed to follow. Someday, he'll surely have a monument, too. Because on the list of monumental baseball achievements, this ranks right up there.
Along with 28 players with 3,000 hits, there are 25 members of the 500-homer club and 23 pitchers in the 300-win club. And the Yankees: They have got 27 World Series championships.
Jeter desperately wanted to achieve the mark at home, and the Yankees only had two games left in the Bronx before the All-Star break, with an eight-game road trip looming to start the second half of the season.
Manager Joe Girardi was not worried about Jeter trying too hard.
"He's never had a problem with pressure in his life," Girardi said before the game.
Jeter was the first major leaguer to get 3,000 since Craig Biggio in 2007.