BALTIMORE -- After Derek Jeter shook hands with President Barack Obama for the first time at last summer's All-Star Game in St. Louis, the commander in chief referred to the Yankees shortstop in an interview as "a classic."
By matter of coincidence, Obama happened to be speaking to the same students who roamed the hallways where Jeter's journey began this week, addressing 280 graduates of Kalamazoo Central (Mich.) High School on Monday.
The school bested more than 1,000 others in a nationwide competition to draw the president's visit, packing a crowd of more than 5,000 into the basketball arena at Western Michigan University, where Obama handed out diplomas and hugged a few students.
"They won a contest throughout the whole country, so it's good for them," Jeter said. "I would think it was a pretty good commencement speech."
Jeter's younger sister, Sharlee -- also a Kalamazoo Central graduate -- was on hand for the event, accompanied by members of the Kalamazoo "Jeter's Leaders," a youth leadership program funded by Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation.
Jeter was also referenced by the president in his prepared remarks to the Class of 2010, as part of a speech in which he urged the students to work hard, think of others and invest energy in every task they undertake.
"Kalamazoo Central alum Derek Jeter wasn't born playing shortstop for the Yankees -- he got there through years of effort," Obama said. "His high school baseball coach once remarked, 'I'm surprised you don't still see the blisters on my hands from hitting ground balls just for Derek.' He always wanted more: 'How about one more turn in the batting cage? Or 25 more ground balls?'"
The White House made the final selection and cited Kalamazoo Central's 80 percent-plus graduation rate, improvements in academic performance and a culturally rich curriculum.