NEW YORK — Mobbed by his pinstriped pals 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.
His first home run at Yankee Stadium this year, too.
A fitting crown for the captain.
With a swift swing of his shiny black bat, Jeter jolted himself into historic company, homering off Tampa Bay ace David Price in the third inning Saturday. He became the 28th major leaguer to hit the milestone and joined 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.
By then, all of Jeter’s teammates were already celebrating in the dugout, raising their arms almost in unison. A special time for No. 2 — his second hit of the game, and right at 2 p.m.
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. Surely, a valuable souvenir to savor.
True to his nature of staying focused on the game, Jeter briskly rounded the bases. But there was no way this moment was going to pass without plenty of fanfare.
Good buddy Jorge Posada greeted Jeter with a bear-hug after he touched home plate. 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.
The 37-year-old 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 parents and longtime girlfriend, actress Minka Kelly, have been sitting.
Jeter also paid tribute to his opponents. He pointed at Price while many of the Rays applauded the accomplishment, some of them coming out of the dugout to cheer.