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Seattle Times, July 08, 1998

DENVER - Clearly, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are cut from the same cloth - and you just know it's Armani, top of the line.

They are young, hip, handsome, single, and the two best shortstops in the land, give or take a Nomar here and an Omar there. They are a Gentleman's Quarterly layout come to life, the very definition of suavity and style, so golden they almost glow.

They are also best friends, virtually inseparable since they arrived at Coors Field on Monday for the All-Star Game. There they were, clowning in the clubhouse from their adjacent locker stalls. There they were at dinner Monday night, doing the town. There they were playing catch before the game. There they were, hanging together in the dugout, watching the American League wrap up its 13-8 victory. And there they were, leaving side by side into the Denver night.

For A-Rod, what made this All-Star Game such a memorable experience was more than just the opportunity to take what he called "a mental break" from the Mariners' stressful, dispiriting season. And it was more than the home run he sent, in vintage 1998 Rodriguez fashion, to the opposite field off Andy Ashby in the fifth inning, just when it looked like all this talk about a Coors Field power explosion was so much hype.

Far more special than that was the opportunity to share it with his buddy, the guy he hangs out with in the winter in Florida, his counterpart with the New York Yankees and in life.

"This is the most fun I've had at an All-Star Game, and that chump over there had a lot to do with it," he said, gesturing affectionately at Jeter.

The ease of their relationship is reflected in the good-natured barbs they send back and forth. When Rodriguez was patiently explaining to reporters about his home run, Jeter called out, in a scoffing tone, "It was the Colorado air!"

Rodriguez laughed and said, "Believe it. I thought I fouled it back."

Ask Jeter about the well-publicized burglary of Rodriguez's Miami home last winter, and he says, "He did that himself. I think it was insurance money. He set it up."

As the story goes, they have a bet going where the first one to get married has to pay the other $5,000. And so it goes. But ask Jeter to pick his favorite shortstop among the wondrous crop now gracing the game, and he says, without hesitation, "Alex. But he's my best friend, so I'm biased."

And here's A-Rod, giving it right back: "I think Derek is one of the best players in the game, no doubt about it. He keeps improving every year. When I talk about him, it's almost like nepotism because of how I feel about him. To this point, if he hadn't gotten hurt, there's no doubt in my mind he was the unanimous MVP."

The two first met when Rodriguez was a senior at Miami's Westminster Christian High School, and a mutual friend put them together, thinking that Jeter, a year older and two years sooner into his professional career, could give him advice on the pitfalls ahead.

"It was at the University of Miami," Rodriguez recalled. "I saw him over there, a skinny, ugly kid. I walked over there and started asking him a little bit about the draft, his experiences, who his agent was. We just hit it off."

The relationship deepened before the 1996 season, when the two attended the Rookie Development Program, an indoctrination for young players. When Jeter settled in Tampa, within driving distance of Rodriguez's Miami home, the two began socializing during the winter - they spent New Year's together last year - while watching their careers explode on parallel paths. Jeter was Rookie of the Year in '96, helping the Yankees to the World Series championship, the same season that Rodriguez burst into superstardom, winning the batting title and nearly the MVP award.

Both view themselves as guardians of the game and don't shy away from the responsibility of presenting a positive, uplifting image to youngsters.

"I think the reason our relationship works is we have a lot of respect for each other," Rodriguez said. "I marvel at the way he plays and respects the game, and I think it's reciprocal. He's like a big brother. He is my big brother. He's older. It's a pretty unique relationship."

Jeter, half-listening in the next-door locker, caught the "older" part and fired back, "He's lying about his age. He's supposedly older than me, but I don't buy it."

For the 50th time that night, Rodriguez laughed at his friend, and savored his All-Star experience.

I am NOT affiliated with the New York Yankees. I am just a fan. I am not Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez or any other member of the Yankee ballclub. This site is mainly for entertainment purposes only.