FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daniel Nava was cut from his college team and made it to the major leagues with the Red Sox via a twisting road that included stops in junior college and an independent league.
Yet when he encountered Derek Jeter on the field for the first time in 2010, the Yankees captain knew the story and made it a point to congratulate Nava and wish him well.
Those are the kind of moments Red Sox players will remember about Jeter, who announced Wednesday he would retire at the end of the season.
“That means a lot when it’s your first time,” Nava said Thursday after the Red Sox went through an informal workout at JetBlue Park. “There were a lot of rookies [on the 2010 Red Sox] and they all said the same thing, that he treated them great. That says a lot about the type of guy he is.
“That was a special thing for me. We all know what Derek Jeter means to the game.”
Sox righthander Clay Buchholz has pitched fairly well against Jeter, holding him to six singles in 23 at-bats. But he’ll remember those times they crossed paths in batting practice or in a hallway beneath the stands and Jeter said something complimentary.
“He’s as down to earth as it gets. For someone to be captain of that team and that franchise for as long as he was there, and being able to keep everything on an even keel and do everything as a professional, it’s something that’s pretty special,” Buchholz said.
“He was always really personable to me. That’s something I’ll never forget . . . There wasn’t one person in the game that disliked him in any way.”
For many major leaguers, Jeter served as a role model both in terms of his skill on the field and personality off it. The Yankees dynasty of the late 1990s took place as many of the current players were playing in high school or middle school.
“Growing up, he was the guy you looked at. Just the way he went about his business,” first baseman Mike Napoli said. “He played for a big-market team, won five championships, came to the park every day and everything he did seemed to be the right way. The way he handled himself, the way he worked, a leader. It’s sad to see him go.’’
Buchholz, who played plenty of shortstop before he turned to pitching, said Jeter was the player he tried to emulate.
“It was always fun to watch what he would do in a game,” Buchholz said. “The guy has done about as much as you can do in this game. Just a standout player, obviously a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”
With Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte retiring after last season and now Jeter preparing for his last season in pinstripes, the Yankees so many Red Sox fans have rooted against for years will have a different look.
“The run they had, when you looked at the Yankees you looked at those guys,” Napoli said. “It’s pretty crazy that next year all those guys will be gone.”
Counting the postseason, Jeter has played 286 games against the Red Sox, more than any other team. He also has played more games at Fenway Park than in any stadium outside of the Bronx. Jeter has long treasured the rivalry against the Red Sox and playing at Fenway Park.
New York’s last game of the regular season is Sept. 28 at Fenway Park. Tickets for that game soared in value within hours of Jeter’s announcement.
The Red Sox have not put those tickets on sale yet outside of season-ticket packages. But brokers are already asking $800 and above.
“There’s not going to be any boos in the stadium that day,” Buchholz predicted. “It’ll be a special day for everybody.”
Napoli said being on the field that day would be memorable even for the Red Sox players. Nava agreed, adding that it was fitting Jeter could play the Red Sox in his last regular-season game.
“He deserves every honor that he’ll get,” Nava said.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.