On May 30, 1995, the Daily News said this about Derek Jeter’s Yankee debut, in Seattle (Tony Fernandez’s rib cage injury paved the way for his call-up):
It was 11 years ago when a first-round draft pick last made it up to the Yankees. His name was Rex Hudler and he had been toiling in the minors for seven seasons. No one expected him to be great.
The same cannot be said of Derek Jeter, who yesterday became the first Yankee first-rounder since Hudler to join the big club. Jeter’s climb through the minors has been meteoric since the Yankees made him the sixth overall pick in the June 1992 draft. With a .308 average and 77 stolen bases in just over three seasons, Jeter is expected to be a star.
Beset by injuries to Tony Fernandez and Pat Kelly, and in need of an offensive boost, the Yankees made room for Jeter by designating Kevin Elster and his .117 average for assignment. They have 10 days to do something with Elster.
Jeter, who at 20 becomes the youngest Yankee since 19-year old Jose Rijo came up in 1984, was immediately inserted into the lineup at shortstop against the Mariners.
He took an 0-for-5 collar last night, including a strikeout with a man on third and two outs in the 11th inning. He handled the only ball hit directly to him flawlessly.
“I’m a little nervous,” Jeter said before the game. “But more excited than anything. I tried not to think too much about the injuries and things that were going on up here. You can go crazy trying to figure those things out. I was hoping.”
Jeter flew in from Norfolk, Va., where he was playing with the Columbus Clippers. He had time to call his father in Kalamazoo, Mich., and tell him he was on his way to Seattle. When Jeter arrived, his father was waiting.
“I’m anxious to see the way he handles himself in the clubhouse up here,” said Buck Showalter. “That was one of the things that impressed me about Derek when I got to follow him the end of last year. He is very mature for his age.”
That much is clear when examining Jeter’s minor-league career. This season, Jeter was leading the International League in hits (62), doubles (13) and triples (5). He ranked third in the league in hitting (.354) and fourth in on-base percentage (.423). The only negative was Jeter’s 12 errors, but most of those came on throws. Showalter said he expects Jeter will be solid.
“I’ll just try to go out and have fun,” Jeter said. “And try to improve.”
Jeter had been projected as the Yankees shortstop of ’95, but after he injured his shoulder diving for a ball in the Arizona Fall League, the Yankees signed Tony Fernandez to a two-year deal. The injury turned out to be minor.
“I knew the Yankees weren’t just going to give me the shortstop job,” Jeter said. “I know it’s something that you have to earn.”
Whether this will be his chance to earn a full-time job is yet to be seen. Fernandez, on the DL with a rib-cage injury, is eligible to return Monday, but probably will be out a little longer than that.
“I don’t want to get into what Derek has to do to stay up,” said Showalter. “We want him to relax and do what he’s capable of doing. We hope Derek makes us a better club.”
When the N.Y. Times’ Jack Curry took a look back at this game in September, with Jeter on the verge of setting the Yankees’ hits record, he added that Jeter took his dad out for dinner at McDonald’s after the game, and that Jeter technically replaced Robert Eenhoorn at short, not Fernandez. The Mariners won Jeter’s debut, 8-7, despite missing the recently injured Ken Griffey Jr., in 12 innings on a Rich Amaral homer. It was just a few days after the debuts of Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.