MINNEAPOLIS — On a sparkling summer night in the Upper Midwest, baseball generations joined up and prepared to pass.
Derek Jeter, the 40-year-old face of baseball, bid farewell to the All-Star game at the same time 22-year-old Mike Trout became the second-youngest player to earn MVP honors at the showcase.
The 41,048 fans at Target Field buzzed from start to finish. Many no doubt will say years from now they were there when Jeter soaked in the adulation one more time on baseball’s national stage, and when Trout showed why he’s perhaps the top candidate to become the sport’s next iconic player.
Jeter and Trout propelled the American League to a 5-3 victory over the National on Tuesday for its 13th win in 17 years. The night will be remembered for the old and the young rather than the score.
Raised in New Jersey, Trout saw a lot of Jeter and said all week he felt honored to play alongside him.
“Growing up I was setting goals to myself that when I get — if I ever get the chance to get — to the big leagues, that’s how I want to play,” Trout said. “And the way he carries himself on and off the field, how he respects the game — always hustling, it doesn’t matter what the score is. If they are down 10 runs, he is always running the ball out. That’s how I want to play.”
Jeter made a diving stop on Andrew McCutchen’s grounder to shortstop leading off the game and nearly threw him out at first, then received a 63-second standing ovation when he walked to the plate before his opposite-field double to right leading off the bottom half. He was given another rousing cheer before his single to right starting the third made him the oldest All-Star with a multihit game and 2 1/2 minutes more applause after AL manager John Farrell sent Alexei Ramirez to shortstop to replace him at the start of the fourth.
Trout tripled home Jeter in the first and scored on Miguel Cabrera’s two-run homer off Adam Wainwright, then gave the AL a 4-3 lead in the fifth with an RBI double against Pat Neshek. Trout, second to Cabrera in AL MVP voting the last two years, is in position for a most unusual All-Star cycle: He singled in the first at-bat of his debut at Kansas City in 2012, doubled leading off last year’s game and now tripled.
All he needs is a home run in his first at-bat next year at Cincinnati.
No wonder many expect him to become baseball’s top personality.
“I think let Mike be Mike. I don’t think people have to necessarily appoint someone to a particular position,” Jeter said. “He’s got a bright future ahead of him. I don’t know how much better he can get, but if he consistently does what he’s doing, then he will be here for a long time.”
While not as flashy as Mariano Rivera’s All-Star farewell at Citi Field last year, when all the other players left the great reliever alone on the field for an eighth-inning solo bow, Jeter tried not to make a fuss and to deflect the attention.
Even during his pregame clubhouse speech.
“He just wanted to thank us,” Trout said. “You know, we should be thanking him.”
As Frank Sinatra’s recording of “New York, New York” boomed over the Target Field speakers and his parents watched from the stands, Jeter repeatedly waved to the crowd when he came out of the game. He exchanged handshakes and hugs with just about every person in the AL dugout and then came back onto the field for a curtain call.
“It was a special moment and it was unscripted,” Jeter said. “I was unaware of it.”
NL manager Mike Matheny of the Cardinals didn’t want it to stop.
“The guys on our side have the utmost respect for him and would like to have been standing out there for a little while longer,” he said. “I think Derek was the one that was uncomfortable with it.”
A 14-time All-Star who was MVP of the 2000 game in Atlanta, Jeter announced in February this will be his final season. His hits left him with a .481 All-Star average (13 for 27), just behind Charlie Gehringer’s .500 record (10 for 20) for players with 20 or more at-bats.
While the Yankees are .500 at the break and in danger of missing the postseason in consecutive years for the first time in two decades, Jeter and the Angels’ Trout gave a boost to whichever AL team reaches the World Series.
The AL improved to 9-3 since the All-Star game started deciding which league gets Series home-field advantage; 23 of the last 28 titles were won by teams scheduled to host four of a possible seven games.