NEW YORK — George Brett predicts the 3,000th hit of Derek Jeter’s career will be harder to get than the first.
“That first at-bat will be a little tough,” the Hall of Fame third baseman, one of the 27 players in the 3,000 Hit Club Jeter is seeking to join, said of Thursday night’s Yankees game.
“He’ll get a standing ovation in anticipation,” Brett said on a conference call Thursday afternoon. “But the one thing about Derek Jeter is he’s been the star of that team for a long time; he’s been the focal point of that team for a long, long time. As many World Series as he’s played in — there’s more pressure playing in the World Series than getting three hits in a four-game series.”
Brett said it would probably take a couple of at-bats for Jeter’s nerves to calm enough for him to get a hit.
“I think he’ll really, really have to breathe and relax and not really think about it,” Brett said. “Once he does that, I think he’s going to be able to do it.”
The shortstop doubled Wednesday in Cleveland to reach 2,997, then returned home to face the Tampa Bay Rays Thursday, a game the Yankees lost 5-1. Jeter went one-for-five to sit at 2,998 hits.
“The second hit will be easier to get than the first, but that 3,000th is going to be a hard one,” Brett said.
Brett said he’d never met Jeter. If he were to congratulate New York’s captain on joining the club, he’d tell him: “I admired you throughout your whole career. You’ve kept your nose clean in an era where it’s really hard to keep your nose clean.”
“I’m more impressed with the consistency he’s gone out and played with,” Brett said. “Obviously, it’s a lot more pressure playing in New York than in any other city in the country.”
Like Jeter, Brett got all his hits with one team — with the Kansas City Royals from 1973-93. He had extra pressure as he approached No. 3,000: Brett was hurt with a few games left in the 1992 season, unsure if he’d play another year.
He reached the milestone in time and added 154 more hits before retiring.
“I’m sure he has many, many more hits to come with him,” Brett said of Jeter, noting his own batting title as a 37-year-old, Jeter’s current age.
Brett isn’t sure how many more guys will join him and Jeter in the club. Players of his era stayed in the game longer because they made less money and wanted to “continue to build that nest egg.”
“Is that desire still going to be there when they’re worth US$250 million when they’re 37 years old?” Brett said.