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Acclaim: Derek, how old were you when you first started playing baseball?

Derek Jeter: As long as I can remember. Maybe five, six. Pony League, Little League...Little League, tee ball...tee ball.

A: Who was an inspiration for you growing up, on a personal level and as well as a sports idol?

DJ: Well, my dad played baseball at Fisk University so when I was younger I wanted to be like him. And than, baseball-wise, besides Zimmer of course, Dave Winfield. I was a big Winfield fan.

A: What are some of your individual goals as a player, aside from the team goals, as coming up for the season?

DJ: Well, I think personal accolades, I mean they're great and everything but, we tend to focus more on the team. Well, I've been spoiled. We won two out of three years, so anytime you go through that all you want to do is win.

A: How do you prepare yourself in the off-season?

DJ: I live down here in Tampa and I work out at the minor league complex with the coaches, strength coaches and we pretty much do everything. There's almost no off-season.

A: Especially when you go into October winning.

DJ: Yeah.

A: Talk about your involvement writing the scouting reports for the All-Star Baseball video game.

DJ: Well I tried to be a little biased toward our pitching staff, so I think our team might dominate this game. You know, it was fun. I got to go through and look at the different pitchers, and in my opinion put how they pitch me, so...and everyone knows how to get me out.

A: Okay, give us a little more detail. Who taught you how to play the game, was that someone that came from your family or was that just coaches in the area growing up?

DJ: My dad taught me a lot. He says even now he couldn't hit too good but he says, so he's a better defensive player so he's always out there. My mom, my dad, we all used to go out there. Mom used to throw me Wiffle balls in the back yard, so it was like a family project.

A: What players in the league do you admire for their skills?

DJ: Well, there's a lot of players..., Alex Rodriguez of course, Garciapara...and I'm just looking at shortstops...Ordonez. There's a lot of young players coming up that I think play great and they have a respect for the game, so I think that's good for the fans.

A: You've been asked this question a lot I'm sure in the last week, but what was your initial reaction to the David Wells/Roger Clemens trade?

DJ: I was sort of shocked because I hadn't been reading the papers but I hadn't heard any trade rumors before it happened and it was a last second thing. They went to the field and they told me that they traded for him, so, it was kind of a shock at first.

A: Obviously you've been through this twice, but going back to the first time and even the second time, what's the overall feeling of winning a world championship?

DJ: I don't know if you could sit here and describe it. I think...every kids dream, when they dream of playing baseball is playing in a World Series and I've been spoiled two out of three years, so I don't know if I could sit here and exactly in words and describe it; but I think it's very gratifying- I think even more so last year. My first year things happened so fast and before I knew it we won, and last year was a great thrill for us.

A: Obviously the Yankees have recieved a lot of attention in the off-season. People are expecting them to win. Is it fair to say that anything less than a world championship would be acceptable for the team as a whole?

DJ: I think it's very fair. I think you play 162 games, you play thirty in the spring and you play another fifteen in the post-season. You don't get a ring if you don't win. So our goal is to win the World Series and that's the bottom line. If you don't win than the season is not a success.

A: What kind of music do you listen to and who is your favorite performer or rock band?

DJ: That's funny, uh...


A: Presently.

DJ: I like R&B and hip-hop. I don't really have one particular group or artist or anything, it's just the whole hip-hop, R&B...

A: Okay. What advise to have to give to aspiring Little Leaguers and ball players?

DJ: Well, I would say, you don't necessarily have to want to be an athlete. I think whatever you want to do your dream can come true if you work hard because not too many people get a chance to play professional sports but a lot of people tell them they can't. I know when I was growing up everyone said that you can't do it and they laughed at me, but I think if you work hard than anything can happen.

A: Okay. Give us your overall response to having the opportunity to appear in a television commercial for a video game for kids.

DJ: Well, it's fun. I think it's a lot of fun. Hopefully the commercial comes out well. A lot depends on how Zim acts at the end because a lot's riding on him.

A: Zim is going to get the chance to answer some questions here too...

DJ: So, I don't know how much of an actor he is, but we'll see what happens. So it's been a's been a good experience for me.

A: Okay. Obviously from the commercial, All-Star Baseball has helped you prepare for the season coming up. What advise would you give to those kids who are considering adding All-Star Baseball 2000 to their list of games?

DJ: Well I think it'll be a great game. Like I said, I sat down and went through the scouting reports so hopefully I got the reports right. So I think it's going to be as close as to the real thing as you can get.




EL Duque loves Chinese food, Derek Jeter loves the nightlife and John Olerud loves show tunes.

On the field, the Yankees and the Mets are contenders, dukes of the diamond.

Off the field, they're royalty - with the whole Big Apple theirs for the asking.

And they spend their time off, The Post discovered, in very different ways.

"Monday is our big night - the phone rings all night with ladies asking, 'Is Jeter going to be in?'" says China Club owner Michael Barrett, of the Derek Jeter followers who want to be on hand when the 25-year-old pinstripe sensation unwinds at the Midtown hot spot. "It's the main question we get asked."

Among the Mets, Mike Piazza is the player who sets female fans asizzle. The $91 million catcher has a house in New Jersey and a steady girlfriend. But that doesn't stop him from cutting loose in the city on occasion.

He has been known to take a turn behind the drum kit at Le Bar Bat on 57th Street - the same joint that infamously once refused to admit Jeter and several buddies when a doorman didn't recognize the Yankee slugger's mug.

Piazza's also reportedly done time in the VIP room at Life, on Bleecker Street, although, according to a spokeswoman, he's not always welcome. "The other night, he drove by the club in a Lincoln and the crowd on the street noticed him and started screaming, "Don't even think about it, Piazza!"

"Yes, Life is definitely a Yankee place."

It's certainly among the few places Jeter and teammates Chuck Knoblauch and Tino Martinez choose to go in the off-season, when they want to throw back a few beers or vodka drinks and "dirty dance" with pretty ladies dying to meet them.

"All the girls line up to dance with them," the club's spokesperson says, adding that Jeter scores the most babes but "they all do well."

Yankee ace David Cone, a party animal of legendary proportions when he was with the Mets in 1987-'92 - "The East River and the Hudson River, anything in between was fair game . . . We played hard and we partied hard," he told Esquire magazine - now prefers his partying a little quieter, hanging with slugger Chili Davis, catcher Jorge Posada and Jeter.

"They [the Yankees] like to get a little tight sometimes, but they're not like the hockey players, who are really hard-drinking types, maybe because they get hit so much," said China Club's Barrett. "They drink Evian or maybe a light beer."

But only when duty doesn't call. "They won't come back to the club until they win the World Series," Barrett says.

When the players do choose to rejoin the New York nightclub circuit, their fans will be waiting to greet them.

"Jeter is probably as mild and nice and cordial and friendly a person as you'll ever meet," Barrett said. "He talks to people and signs autographs. There's never any attitude or any problems. The same goes for all of the guys on the team."

Former Yankee hurler David Wells - whose move to Toronto left bartenders all over town in tears - introduced his pinstriped teammates to the trendy SoHo boite Veruka, where Jeter, Cone and Davis are regular diners and partiers.

Do any of them bring dates along? "No comment!" says the club's tight-lipped owner, Noel Ashman, although he will say that they do bring in celeb friends, such as Sarah Jessica Parker and her hubby, Matthew Broderick.

"I like to set up a security guard in front of them," says Ashman. "We have lots of actors come in - really big ones - and they get less attention than these guys."

As much as the single players enjoy the club scene and the company of gorgeous women, they're also guys' guys.

Jeter, Davis and third baseman Scott Brosius get together for a stag lunch every week at Brunelli, an Italian eatery on the Upper East Side.

"They come in for late lunches, always around 3 or 3:30," says owner Russ Brunelli. The Yankee cliques come to nosh favorite dishes like pasta fagoili [a hearty pasta and bean soup] and Caesar salads with grilled chicken and drink iced tea.

Brunelli says that even though his Yankee diners don't play up their celeb status, they attract a lot of attention.

"The entire restaurant is covered in mirrors, so people from other tables watch them without looking directly at them," Brunelli says. Plus, "we have three very big windows, so wherever I seat the guys, you can see them from the street. People stop in front of the windows to give them the thumbs up."

Baseball is always on at another Yankee nosh spot, Elaine's. "It's my life," says Elaine Kaufman, the inimitable Upper East Side restaurant's owner, who has hosted dinners for the entire Yankee team and has been feeding George Steinbrenner for "at least 25 years."

The Yankee owner likes to order the veal Milanese with a chopped salad, and lets Elaine herself whip up special desserts made for his discerning taste. "He likes fresh strawberries served with warm zabaglione," she says.

Like his Bronx Bombers, Steinbrenner isn't a late-night guy. "These people are up early, so they don't stay late," Kaufman says.

And as for other players? Alhough they field, bat and sprint in front of thousands, some players - Yankee slugger Paul O'Neill among them - are rather uncomfortable in the limelight.

The right fielder, a big rock 'n' roll fan who likes to shop for clothes on Canal Street, lives in Westchester during the season and only occasionally enjoys a night out on the town.

"He likes to have fun, and he'll come down once or twice a year and we'll go to dinner and check out 'Saturday Night Live,'" said p.r. man Bobby Zarem, an O'Neill friend.

Other quieter guys - Mets mostly - can be lured out of their burrows for the theater.

"The Oleruds, the Venturas, the Leiters - they've seen all the shows, and the Oleruds went to the opera," said team spokeswoman Shannon Dalton.

The Yankees' Cuban import, Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez - who stowed away in the hull of a boat to defect to the United States - has his own brand of social life. A resident of Miami in the winter, he lives in Midtown Manhattan during the season and frequents Chiam, an upscale Chinese restaurant on East 48th Street.

Like many other Hispanic players on the Yankees, El Duque savors the Spanish and Puerto Rican fare at Jimmy's Bronx Cafe near Yankee Stadium.

The Mets prefer the red meat and fresh seafood at the Morton's of Chicago steakhouses in Manhattan. According to Roger Drake, director of communications for Morton's restaurants, the day that Piazza signed his $91 million contract last October, he chose the restaurant's West Street location as the place to celebrate.

The marvelous Met had just ordered a juicy filet mignon and an Italian red wine to wash it down when he noticed Yank Mariano Rivera dining on lobster a few tables away. After dinner, the diplomatic Piazza made it a point to make his way over to Rivera to congratulate him on the Yankees' recent World Series win.


Who: Derek Jeter

Where: Life (158 Bleecker St.), Veruka (525 Broome St.), Jimmy's Bronx Cafe (281 W. Fordham Road, The Bronx), China Club (268 W. 47th St.), Brunelli (1409 York Ave.)

Who with: All the Yanks - but especially Tino Martinez, David Cone, Chili Davis and Chuck Knoblauch

How often: Whenever he can! Besides being the closest thing the Yanks have to a pinup boy, Jeter is the player most likely to be seen out and about, kicking up his heels - and reading about it in the gossip columns the next day.

Party trick: Two weeks ago, he was spotted chilling with Martinez and Knoblauch to the hip-hop DJ spinning in Life's VIP room. At other tables were a well-appointed mix of celebs including The Artist Formerly Known as Prince and songbird Mariah Carey - Jeter's ex-girlfriend. Guess which tables did not mix?

Who:Mike Piazza

Where: Life, Morton's of Chicago (551 Fifth Ave., 90 West St.), Le Bar Bat (311 W. 57th St.)

With whom: Mets cohorts Luis Lopez, manager Bobby Valentine, Bobby Bonilla, John Franco, Matt Franco

How often: This guy is just plain Jeter-esqe in his escapades - meaning, if he's out on the town, people are talking and writing about it.

Party trick: He may have been denied access to Veruka on occasion due in small part to that club's pro-Yank sentiment, but the staff at Le Bar Bat (which, coincidentally, once denied Jeter access) allows Piazza the run of the house. To wit: At a Mets Make-A-Wish Foundation fund-raiser there in January, he drummed along with the band the Bogmen on the Rolling Stones' "Miss You."



Every Yankee fan will soon be able to wake up to a dream: having breakfast with Derek Jeter.

Well, not exactly.

But they will be able to have Jeter's-brand frosted flakes.

Two enterprising Manhattan thirtysomethings have signed a deal with the Yankee superstar and plan to bring the cereal to market next month.

Jason Bauer and Mike Simon and their Famous Fixins Inc., outfit will bring the Jeter's cereal to area supermarkets, along with a cereal featuring the Mets and several of their superstars.

Famous Fixins, which has inked about a dozen celebrity-food deals, announced yesterday the much-anticipated deal with the Mets.

And since both Jeter's and the Amazin' Mets Frosted Flakes are the same cereal, a true "bagging rights" rivalry will be added to the pennant chase on-field bragging rights contest now heating up.

The first Mets' cereal, to hit shelves later this month, will feature eight players on the box, including the power-packed middle of the lineup, Olerud, Piazza and Ventura, and be limited to a run of 250,000, making it an instant collectors' item.

And while Famous Fixins hopes to capitalize on the pennant chase, sales of the sugar-coated cereal will be sweet music to area charities as spoonfuls of profits from the sales of the products will be donated to players' favorite causes.

In Jeter's case, it will be his broad-based Turn 2 Foundation. Representatives for the Yankee superstar couldn't be reached for comment.

The two new cereals are just the latest celebrity/athlete food tie-ins to hit the market in recent years.

Pittsburgh-based PublicLabel Sports, which introduced Flutie Flakes to Buffalo-area stores a couple of years ago with hopes of selling a few hundred thousand units, started the trend.

Ty Ballou, the owner of PublicLabel, told The Post yesterday that sales of Flutie Flakes recently passed 1.5 million units and that its total lineup of athlete-branded products, including a Tom Glavine marinara sauce, Nolan Ryan steak sauce and Jaromir Jagr peanut butter, have shipped more than 4 million units.

At publicly-traded Famous Fixins, Bauer and Simon, with in-common college pals, combined a friendship with Cal Ripken and the idea to brand athletes and foods and ran with the idea.



TAMPA -- Whether he plays for $10 million this season or eventually signs a seven-year deal for a stunning $118M, Derek Jeter's salary will swell considerably over last year's $5 million.

Yet the paycheck isn't the only thing growing on the budding superstar.

Thanks to a winter of workouts, Jeter has added bulk in his shoulders and chest and has clear definition in his biceps. While Jeter isn't ready to pose in muscle-magazine ads, there is no doubt the 25-year-old hunk has added bulk in order to handle the rigors of playing every day across a 162-game grind.

"When last season ended, I was at 185 [pounds]," Jeter explained to The Post following a morning workout yesterday at the Yankees' minor-league complex that included taking batting practice, working with a colossal exercise ball and free weights.

"[The workouts] are designed to get stronger. It helps you out more toward the end of the year."

So, as Jeter prepares for his fifth season in pinstripes, he does so with 203 pounds of toned flesh stretched over a 6-foot-3 frame.

Physically ready to lead the Yankees' three-peat effort, Jeter insists he has separated the financial side of the game from the actual playing.

"Once the season starts, the only thing you do is get ready to play and play to win," said Jeter. "I love to play. I don't play for the money."

Jeter shakes his head in bewilderment when asked about him being close to a long-term deal that will make him the highest-paid player in Yankee history.

"I have no clue where that came from," Jeter said.

So, would Jeter be open to giving up free agency following the 2001 season to ink a deal for seven years at $118 million?

"It's up to [the Yankees]," Jeter said coyly.

According to Mark Newman, the VP of baseball operations, the sides aren't close to a multi-year deal. Of course, Newman isn't saying a deal won't get done. Jeter's agent, Casey Close, has several visits to Tampa during spring training planned.

Jeter needs New York and the Yankees have to have him. That's why many people in the industry believe George Steinbrenner eventually will give Jeter more money than Ken Griffey Jr. received from the Reds to return home.

"He made it a point that [Cincinnati] is the only place he wanted to go, he wouldn't go to any other team," Jeter said of Griffey, who agreed to a nine-year, $116.5 million deal last week. Griffey, considered the best player in the game, signed a deal way below his market value. Jeter was asked if Griffey taking less to go home affected his contract situation.

"I have no clue because right now there is no deal," Jeter said.

Since Jeter and the Yankees agreed to a one-year pact worth $10 million and thus avoided dragging Jeter to the arbitration table like a year ago, Jeter is satisfied.

"Arbitration is not fun for the player," said Jeter, who won last year's hearing. "You think you are helping the team and then you have to sit there and listen to them tell you about the things you can't do."

Even though he won, Jeter took to heart the criticism that he didn't hit enough homers and responded by clubbing a career-high 24 dingers. Now, he is getting anxious to go.

"I took two weeks off and then started working out," Jeter said. "We didn't start hitting until January. Now it's time to get going."

With more muscle and more money.

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