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Heart of Yankees almost landed deep in heart of Texas

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HOUSTON -- Derek Jeter never gives much thought to what his career might have looked like in a different uniform, but as he prepares for this final lap through the big leagues, there was a chance that it could have all happened in Houston instead of New York.

The Astros owned the first selection in the 1992 First-Year Player Draft and had scouted Jeter as a high school shortstop in Kalamazoo, Mich., but their decision-makers opted to select college infielder Phil Nevin instead.

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Four other clubs also passed on Jeter, who fell to the Yankees with the sixth overall selection. None of those picks -- Paul Shuey (Indians), B.J. Wallace (Expos), Jeffrey Hammonds (Orioles) and Chad Mottola (Reds) -- went on to enjoy the levels of success that Jeter would.

 

"I was fortunate to be drafted by the team that I wanted to be, that I was a fan of growing up," Jeter said on Monday at Minute Maid Park, where the Yankees held a workout in advance of Tuesday's season opener. "I've never really allowed myself to think of what could have been different.

"I understand the Draft is a crapshoot. I wasn't even aware that the Yankees drafted sixth, to be quite honest with you. I think things worked out the way they should have worked out."

As the story goes, Astros scout and Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser lobbied hard for Houston to select Jeter with the first pick, having spent two years tracking his development in Michigan. When his advice was ignored, Newhouser quit, ending a career of more than 50 years in professional baseball.

The Astros plan to honor Jeter's career on Wednesday with a pregame ceremony and special gift. The ceremony will include a video highlighting some of Jeter's greatest on-field moments, and former teammates Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens will be in attendance.

"This is the last of the Core Four that came up, that really meant a lot to this organization," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's been very enjoyable to be around. It's been enjoyable to watch the way he goes about his business, plays the game, what he does off the field, the great teammate that he is."

Jeter, who said that he expects all the usual Opening Day butterflies and nerves when he takes the field on Tuesday evening, said that he has always had a sense of gratitude for having those memorable moments come in a Yankees uniform.

"For me, it was always a dream coming to play for the Yankees," Jeter said. "To have that opportunity to do it my whole career, I've been fortunate. I have not even thought about what might have happened [elsewhere]."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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