BALTIMORE -- After Derek Jeter shook hands with President Barack Obama for the first time at last summer's All-Star Game in St. Louis, the commander in chief referred to the Yankees shortstop in an interview as "a classic."
By matter of coincidence, Obama happened to be speaking to the same students who roamed the hallways where Jeter's journey began this week, addressing 280 graduates of Kalamazoo Central (Mich.) High School on Monday.
The school bested more than 1,000 others in a nationwide competition to draw the president's visit, packing a crowd of more than 5,000 into the basketball arena at Western Michigan University, where Obama handed out diplomas and hugged a few students.
"They won a contest throughout the whole country, so it's good for them," Jeter said. "I would think it was a pretty good commencement speech."
Jeter's younger sister, Sharlee -- also a Kalamazoo Central graduate -- was on hand for the event, accompanied by members of the Kalamazoo "Jeter's Leaders," a youth leadership program funded by Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation.
Jeter was also referenced by the president in his prepared remarks to the Class of 2010, as part of a speech in which he urged the students to work hard, think of others and invest energy in every task they undertake.
"Kalamazoo Central alum Derek Jeter wasn't born playing shortstop for the Yankees -- he got there through years of effort," Obama said. "His high school baseball coach once remarked, 'I'm surprised you don't still see the blisters on my hands from hitting ground balls just for Derek.' He always wanted more: 'How about one more turn in the batting cage? Or 25 more ground balls?'"
The White House made the final selection and cited Kalamazoo Central's 80 percent-plus graduation rate, improvements in academic performance and a culturally rich curriculum.
X-rays on Yanks' Gardner negative
BALTIMORE -- Precautionary X-rays performed on the left thumb of Brett Gardner were negative Wednesday, one day after the Yankees outfielder felt soreness following a check-swing.
Gardner said that he has repeatedly felt some discomfort in the thumb since he fractured it last season, but that rest usually allows him to get back in the lineup the next day.
Kevin Russo was in New York's lineup to play left field instead, though Gardner did enter Wednesday's game as a pinch-runner, scoring a run in the eighth inning of a 4-2 win over the O's. Gardner said that he expects to have a MRI performed on Friday in New York.
"Nothing's set in stone yet," Gardner said after Wednesday's game. "I definitely felt better today once I got some treatment on it. Hopefully I'll be able to swing a bat [Thursday] and we'll go from there."
Gardner fractured the thumb last July 26, sliding into second base against the A's in the first inning, then played nine more innings before postgame X-rays revealed the break.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Gardner is strictly a pinch-runner at the moment, unable to bat in a game or throw.
Gardner had treatment on the thumb Wednesday and that it felt better, which has him hopeful that it is only a strain or tweak, and he can be considered day-to-day going forward.
The speedster said he felt the pain after a sixth-inning check-swing facing Orioles starter Kevin Millwood on Tuesday, and again when he singled in the seventh inning. Marcus Thames pinch-hit for Gardner in the eighth, and Gardner said the injury can be attributed to bad luck.
"How many swings did I take since I started hitting in the offseason? Probably thousands and thousands," Gardner said. "It's frustrating the way it happened for me, but there's nothing I can do about it."
Brooks Robinson Game special to Tex
BALTIMORE -- Just 40 games into his Major League career, Mark Teixeira returned to his hometown Baltimore for a series between the Orioles and the Texas Rangers. But it wasn't his first time playing a game at Camden Yards.
That came in his senior year of high school, when he participated in the Brooks Robinson High School All-Star Game of Maryland. And on Wednesday, Teixeira joined former Oriole and Hall of Famer Eddie Murray to share memories from that experience with the players in the 2010 edition.
"Baseball in Baltimore -- baseball in Maryland -- is very special," Teixeira told the young ballplayers at a news conference in the Warehouse at Camden Yards. "Those experiences I had playing baseball in the state of Maryland, will never, ever, leave my heart or leave my mind."
For Teixeira, it was a combination of the camaraderie among the recent high school graduates and the chance to play at a Major League ballpark that made the game so special.
"The first time you get to play on a big league field, it's just unbelievable. You just graduated and you might be playing with some friends or some teammates, maybe even some guys you played against in high school," he said. "Just to bring it all together and play on a big league field as beautiful as this one at Camden Yards is a great experience for everyone."
The All-Star first baseman also shared memories of growing up in Baltimore and watching Murray put together one of the greatest careers in baseball history. Among many accolades, Murray is one of only five players with 3,000 career hits and 500 home runs.
"I'll tell you, playing in a game on your first Major League field, it's an awesome feeling," said Murray, who played his high school All-Star Game in San Francisco's Candlestick Park. "It's something you'll never forget."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Noah Rosenstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.