MESA, Ariz. — The last time the Cubs had the Yankees on their home schedule, they put shortstops Starlin Castro and Derek Jeter on a billboard together near Wrigley Field during the winter to promote the upcoming season.
That was three years ago, and Castro welcomed the comparisons to his idol. He went on to join Jeter at the All-Star Game that summer before finishing as the National League hit king.
Now, as Castro talks about Jeter, a news loop of his retirement after the 2014 season plays in the background on a clubhouse TV.
“One of the good ones is gone,” said Castro, a two-time All-Star, who has held up Jeter as a role model and has even drawn occasional comparisons to Jeter from team officials — if only for Jeter’s high error totals early in his career and for the public scrutiny Jeter gets as the key figure on a big-market team.
“He’s awesome,” said Castro, who met Jeter through their All-Star appearances opposite each other in 2011 and ’12.
When they met, “He told me that I’m a good player, to keep playing hard and to play good,” said Castro, who was too young, and maybe a little too in awe, to ask for an autograph or memento.
The good news for Castro is the Cubs play two two-game series against the Yankees, including the third week of the season in the Bronx. Castro also will be able to renew acquaintances with mentor and former Cub Alfonso Soriano.
“Maybe this year I’ll ask when we go to Yankee Stadium,” he said. “I’ll tell Sori to ask him to sign a jersey for me.”
Castro, 23, plans to make a return to the All-Star Game this year, too. And get back on the career track he once talked about when bringing Jeter into the conversation.
Not that he plans to replace Jeter on the throne of big-league shortstops after Jeter’s retirement.
“I’ll try to be,” he said. “I won’t say I’ll be [the next Jeter]. But I’ll try to be like him.”