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MacArthur: New York native Stroman reveres Jeter

Scott MacArthur, TSN 1050
8/29/2014 10:07:12 PM
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TORONTO – Those of us who were teenagers when Derek Jeter broke into the big leagues in 1995 should be particularly bothered by the Yankee captain's final trip to Rogers Centre.

As if the individual strands of grey hair or the increasing amount of joint pain weren't reminders enough, the impending end of Jeter's career is a slap-in-the-face indicator of a generation's fleeting youth.

There are others who have no memories of a Major League Baseball without Derek Jeter.

One of them is Marcus Stroman, the Blue Jays' 23-year-old rookie starting pitcher. He was all of four years old when Jeter debuted on May 29, 1995. Stroman's connection to Jeter runs deeper if only because he's a native Long Islander. He grew up in the heart of Jeter-worship territory.

"I mean, he's huge," said Stroman. "He's everyone's idol. Everyone who plays baseball wants to be like Jeter. It's not only for him as a baseball player, obviously, he's done everything right. It seems like everything he's done is right. He's been quiet off the field. He's never in any trouble. He's like your perfect role model."

He's "The Captain." To Stroman, he's also a "top step guy," a reference to Jeter's willingness to be the dugout cheerleader, the first with a high-five, when his teammates succeed. Opponents take note of Jeter's status and offer him praise. He passes along his wisdom, has a desire to teach younger players.

Stroman's had his moment with Jeter. It came on Yankee Stadium turf. Jeter was taking groundballs pregame as Stroman was playing catch in shallow leftfield. It wasn't a deep conversation but it meant a lot to the young right-hander.

"He kind of just started talking to me, saying 'Hey, what's up, man," said Stroman. "We talked for a little bit. I actually ended up having him sign a jersey."

He hopes it's not their final chat while they're peers.

"I know we head back there in a couple of weeks so I'll definitely try and get any little tidbits he can throw at me, just about handling myself or baseball in general," said Stroman.

Stroman didn't grow up a Yankees fan. He didn't have a strong affinity for the Mets, either. Instead he cheered for players and Jeter was at the top of his list. So when Jeter stepped into the batter's box against him in the first inning of the June 17 game at Yankee Stadium, Stroman's fourth career start, it was a surreal moment.

When the recorded voice of late, legendary Yankees' public address Bob Sheppard came over the speakers to bring Jeter to the plate, Stroman soaked it in.

"You just get the chills when he steps up, he steps into the box and you hear the announcer. He gives you the little head nod," said Stroman. "It's crazy, especially when you see the commercials about him and we know how many years he's been doing it for. He just steps in the box and it's definitely a different feeling when he comes to the plate."

Jeter's life plays out like a fairytale. Born in New Jersey and raised in Michigan, he grew up a Yankees fan. Drafted by the Yankees in the first round of the 1992 draft, Jeter debuted in 1995. He's never played another field position than shortstop, not for one pitch or one inning.

Off the field, Jeter's an A-list celebrity in a city full of them.

Jeter's critics should realize he made it in New York and as a result, according to Frank Sinatra, he could make it anywhere.

"There's no other way to explain it," said Stroman. "He's perfect."

MORROW MAKING PROGRESS

Brandon Morrow, attempting to return from a torn tendon sheath, will join Triple-A Buffalo during its series in Rochester to continue his rehabilitation.

Morrow threw a scoreless inning for Single-A Dunedin on Wednesday night.

If Morrow makes it back, it will be as a reliever.

The Blue Jays hold a $10-million option on Morrow's services for 2015. While it's unlikely Morrow would return at that number, the Jays could decline the option and attempt to negotiate a lower salary with the 30-year-old right-hander.

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