TRENTON, N.J. - They were brief but memorable conversations, and the Curve players who got to have the little chats with Derek Jeter will never forget them.
It all started when Jeter stepped to the plate leading off the bottom of the first inning Saturday night for Trenton. The Yankee shortstop, captain and future Hall of Famer tapped Curve catcher Tony Sanchez on the shin guard and offered up a few words.
"It was like you were talking to a god," Sanchez said. "You grew up as a little kid watching him, and now he's two feet away from me."
Sanchez recalled exactly what was said.
"Verbatim," he noted.
"He first asked me, 'How's it going' and said 'good luck' to me," Sanchez said. "Then he said, 'Take it easy on me today.'
"I told him, 'I will man. I'll get you ready for that 3,000th hit. Just once you get it, just remember Tony Sanchez got you ready.'"
Jeter got a hit a couple of minutes later on a 2-2 pitch, grounding a ball between third base and shortstop.
Then it was Matt Curry's turn to have a quick little chat with Jeter, the way all first basemen do when a hitter gets to the bag.
"It was awesome," Curry said. "I talked to him [about the hit] and said, 'How did it feel?' He said, 'It feels great' and 'I'm just trying to get ready for September and October.' I said, 'That's when it all counts, right?' And he said, 'Yep.'"
Curry, it turns out, enjoyed a fascinating night of encounters with Jeter.
Curry looped a double to shallow left field in the top of the second inning - not exactly a scorcher but more of a well-placed popup - and this time he got to be the guy on base as Jeter talked to him from shortstop.
"I got to second and he said, 'Way to swing it,' kind of being sarcastic," Curry said. "But since we had already talked at first, I kind of got up and laughed."
The laughs weren't over for Curry, either.
A few minutes later, Jeter came up in the bottom of the second and drilled a 3-2 pitch down the first base line. Curry made a fantastic diving grab, so for the rest of his life and no matter what else he accomplishes in pro baseball, he can always say he robbed Jeter of a hit.
"He was running down the line, I looked over at him, he kind of smiled," Curry said. "It's pretty cool to actually get to talk to him on first and take a hit away from him."
Jeter later joked that he didn't get a chance to say anything to Curry about the play because, "I had to go back to the dugout."
He did add, "Yeah, he made a nice play."
Curve left fielder Quincy Latimore doubled in the fifth inning and shared a quick conversation with Jeter.
"He just told me, 'Good swing, keep playing hard' and asked me where I was from," Latimore said. "I told him North Carolina, and he mentioned that he played there coming up through the minor leagues in Greensboro."
Mike Colla will always remember pitching against the superstar, even if he didn't have much success as Jeter went 1-for-2 with a walk.
"He's a Hall of Famer - first ballot - no doubt about it," Colla said. "But I'm still trying to get him out. That's my job."
The game plan was to work Jeter inside, but Colla kept missing low and away in three at-bats.
"Some of them were probably close," Jeter said. "They were all balls."
"That's what happens when you try to overdo things," Curve pitching coach Wally Whitehurst said of Colla getting away from the game plan.
Jeter looked fantastic defensively, too, making a web gem on a ball up the middle and spinning to throw out Josh Rodriguez in the fourth.
It was just another rehab game for Jeter, but it was so much more to everyone else on hand - including the Curve players.
"Great player," Latimore said. "That's something you'll always remember is playing against Derek Jeter."
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.