Former Yankees Coke, Joba praise Jeter's character

Former Yankees Coke, Joba praise Jeter's character

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Phil Coke hasn't been a teammate of Derek Jeter's for four years, but Jeter still remembers Coke's father and says hello. That, Coke said, says plenty about Jeter's character.

As Jeter embarks on what will now be known as his farewell season, that's what Coke remembers.

"He's a class act," Coke said Thursday. "He's been accused of being a class act his whole big league career, even when he was younger. He's always been incredibly respectful to everybody. He's just a guy that, as a person, you'd like to model yourself after, because he's got so many qualities that he exhibits day-to-day.

"Personally speaking, he didn't ever have to say a word to me in my first big league camp in 2009. He'd always ask me how I was doing and joke around. I was the new guy and he took the time to have conversations with me. A guy of his caliber, the platform he's on socially and so on, he didn't have to talk to me, and he did. Every time my parents were in town, he went out of his way to make sure he said hi. That's an impressive thing to do for anybody. He's got all kinds of stuff on his plate. He doesn't have to take the time."

Coke is one of two Tigers relievers who played alongside Jeter. Joba Chamberlain did so more recently. It was Jeter's handling of the New York media and the New York spotlight that impressed him.

"He's always there, always at his locker, good or bad, answering questions," Chamberlain said. "It's two legends going down back-to-back years [Jeter and just-retired closer Mariano Rivera]. You're a fan of the game, and to see those two people that have accomplished so much to be done in back-to-back years, it's definitely going to be different.

"They led by example. They're not two big rah-rah guys, but they're always there, always accountable, whether Mo blew a save or whether Derek was 0-for-4, you could never tell. Watching them and how they handled that was remarkable, especially with what they've been through and how much they've accomplished and doing it in New York."

Jeter's decision, Chamberlain said, surprised him. The fact that Jeter got it out of the way now and didn't wait, however, wasn't a shock to him.

"You never think it's going to end," Chamberlain said. "And obviously he's getting older, but you see him every day, and I was with him for a long time. It'll definitely be weird not to see him at shortstop."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.