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Among those on hand to root for Jeter was Dick Groch, the scout who signed the future All-Star in 1992. Jeter was a first-round pick that year after being a Michigan prep star.

Groch was standing the near Yankees‘ dugout while New York took batting practice and, while a Jeter montage played on the videoboard, marveled at all the shortstop had accomplished.

Groch has spent more than 30 years in major league scouting and still works for the Milwaukee Brewers. He offered a simple assessment at what he witnessed two decades ago while watching the skinny teenager with the “quick-twitch” reflexes.

“The best I’ve ever seen,” Groch said. “I’ll never see another one.”

Jeter saw Groch before the game and, with a wink, said he intended to get all three hits Thursday night.

“It’s exhilarating, it’s exciting,” Groch said.

Jeter said it equally good to see Groch.

“He’s the first person from the Yankees I ever met,” Jeter said.

Jeter will try again Friday night against rookie Jeremy Hellickson and the Rays as the four-game set continues. Jeter is 1 for 2 lifetime against Hellickson.

“He’s probably going to do it in this series against us, but that’s OK. We can’t get caught up in that,” Maddon said.

Ben Zobrist homered, tripled and singled for the Rays. With a chance to hit for the cycle in the ninth, he walked for the second time.

Niemann (4-4) and the Rays got off to a winning start in an 11-game stretch in which they face division rivals New York and Boston. He pitched a season-high 7 1-3 innings, touched only by Robinson Cano’s home run in the sixth.

Bartolo Colon (6-4) came in 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in his past four starts, but the 38-year-old right-hander allowed five runs and a season-high 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings.