"I just thought it was appropriate," Hal Steinbrenner told MLB.com in an interview during Tuesday's game, a win over the team the Yankees beat this past October for their 40th American League pennant. "[It was nice] for Joe -- who played for George and is now managing -- and for Derek, who has always had a great relationship with him."
"The Boss," long a fixture in the Bronx, has made himself scarce in recent years as he's grown older and more frail. He attended the first two games of the World Series last October, but he was not in attendance as the Yankees won Game 6 to wrap up the Fall Classic. The fact that he was present for another opener was certainly a positive sign.
Yankees COO Lonn Trost, president Randy Levine and general manager Brian Cashman were also present in Steinbrenner's suite when the surprise exchange was made.
"It was terrific," Cashman said. "He got the very first one, and rightfully so. He's done so much for this franchise and obviously this fanbase. It was the perfect way to present him with his ring. The Boss was looking at it, and you could see the pride in his face."
There's a possibility that the elder Steinbrenner will be at the ballpark again on Wednesday, but that's yet to be determined. He'll return to Tampa, Fla., on Thursday.
"I don't know [about tomorrow]," Hal Steinbrenner said. "It depends how he does. His energy level is good. It has remained the same. It's no different than it was in October -- that's great. My mom looks after him very closely. She's the one who has to give her blessing if she wants him to come up to New York or not. But it was an easy decision, because he's just going along steady."
Hal's father was shown on the video board during the third inning before Jeter hit his first homer of the season, drawing a loud cheer from the crowd of 49,293.
"It was fun," Jeter said about giving the Boss his ring. "None of us would be here. The Stadium wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. To get the opportunity to present him with the ring was probably the thing I'll take most out of today."
Hal Steinbrenner said that his father sat in stunned silence as Jeter gave him the ring, and he put it on his hand to replace the one representing the 2000 World Series, which the Yankees won in five games over the Mets for their third in a row and fourth in five years.
"He was very choked up and kind of silent," Hal Steinbrenner said. "It was what I expected. He was very emotional and choked up as we all get from time to time. He said, 'You've done a great job. Keep going, you guys.' As he's gotten older, he's gotten more emotional and he's calmed down. He's certainly different than 10-15 years ago, when Jeter and Girardi played for him. No doubt, he's done with that."
One more thing, Steinbrenner said. Jeter, who grew up in Michigan and whose first Yankees opener was in 1996, jokingly asked the elder Steinbrenner to remove his Ohio State ring.
"He didn't do that -- he took the 2000 ring off and put the new one on," Hal Steinbrenner told reporters earlier. "Jeter is great at breaking the ice in situations like that. My dad looked right at him, pointed right at him, and said, 'Michigan!' I think it all came back to him. Other than that, he was just about speechless, which is what we expected."