Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The 2020 season will be the 45th in Bill Evers' pro coaching career and he's picked up a unique bit of Yankee lore along the way: He's the guy who delivered the happy news to both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera that the future Hall of Famers were headed to the big leagues for the first time.
"I tell people that all the time," Evers said. "How cool to manage both of those guys in Triple-A?"
With Jeter's Cooperstown call coming on Tuesday evening when the Class of 2020 is announced, Evers took a few moments to relive telling Jeter to get to Seattle to join the Yankees after Tony Fernandez got hurt in 1995.
"Part of my conversation with him when I brought him into the office was, 'There's a good and a bad. What do you want first?'" recalled Evers, who managed the Yankees' Triple-A Columbus team.
Jeter, the positive mindset type, wanted the good news first.
"The good part is, you're going to the big leagues," Evers said. "He let out a burst. The bad news was that he was probably coming back when Fernandez was healthy.
"He understood it. He was excited to no end. He deserved every moment. I told him, 'When you go up there, make an impact, so when September comes, you can go back up. He made more than an impact. He performed and then came back to us and went back up in September.
"The rest is history."
The Yanks had originally given Robert Eenhoorn, another infield prospect, a couple of shots at short, but Jeter made his MLB debut on May 29 and went 0-for-5. He got his first Major League hit the next day off Tim Belcher and was 2-for-3.
Jeter played 13 games before returning to Columbus and then got recalled for September, appearing in two more games. Overall, he had at least one hit in 10-of-14 starts and batted .250 with a .669 OPS in 15 games.
Jeter won the shortstop job in 1996 when Fernandez was injured in spring training. While some in the Yankee hierarchy still wondered if the then-21-year-old was ready, Jeter began shattering doubts by homering on Opening Day and sparkling in the field. He went on to win AL Rookie of the Year.
You know the rest.
Evers, who is now a member of the Twins MLB coaching staff under Rocco Baldelli, has run into Jeter over the years and the two have kept in touch. "I'll text him" when the Hall of Fame voting results are announced, Evers said.
Evers laughed as he recalled a moment in 2006 when he was the Rays' bench coach. They were playing the Yankees and Jeter was stretching with a few of Evers' other charges from Columbus -- Jorge Posada, Rivera and Andy Pettitte.
"They said, 'Hey, skip, come over' and I talked to them for a bit," Evers said. "That shows the amount of respect and how he appreciated what we did for him. The guys on my team said, 'How do you know Jeter?' I told them, 'It's a long story, boys, but I was the manager with them in Triple-A.'"
Ten years ago, Evers was eating with his family at the Cheesecake Factory in the International Mall in Tampa. Jeter was there, too.
"He came over to our table, hugged us," Evers said. "He doesn't forget. That's the kind of person he is.
"I respected him and he respected me. Sometimes, players forget who they had as managers and coaches and don't treat them with the respect.
"He is a gentleman and he couldn't be a nicer person."