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“For a while we weren’t even talking about baseball around here, so you can’t enjoy anything when you’re not talking about baseball,” Jeter said.

Still through it all, there was Jeter joking at the cage during batting practice or chatting up a young fan while in the on-deck circle.

“I’m pretty sure he just thinks about going out there and winning a ballgame and everything takes care of itself,” said Posada, a longtime friend and teammate. “He keeps everything away, the negativity he puts it behind. He’s very good at what he does and he’s been doing it for a long time so that helps.”

Sure, his .259 average doesn’t approach his career .312 mark, but Jeter has reached base in 22 of the 25 games since standing up for Posada. In Oakland, he passed Henderson’s franchise record for most steals with his 327th.

Sports talk hosts, columnists and scouts may clamor that two weeks shy of his 37th birthday, Jeter is washed up as a star, but his No. 2 jersey is the No. 1 seller with fans. He’s only 1 1/2 seasons removed from a fifth World Series title, winning the Roberto Clemente Award and being chosen as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year _ first Yankees player to earn that honor, too.

“I think the way he’s gone about his business, with consistency and just as a professional, being just stubborn enough to be great. He’s been a joy to watch,” Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson said. “He’s everybody’s favorite player.”

Confident, respectful and as graceful as one of his jump throws from the hole, Jeter won four World Series championships in his first five years. He’s noted for playing with a team-first, win-at-all-cost attitude _ remember the catch and bloody dive into the stands against Boston.

“He respects the game, he does everything the right way,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “I’m a huge fan of his except for when he’s hitting.”

Major League Baseball plans to have a representative in attendance when Jeter reaches the mark, and at least a dozen licenses for gear commemorating the event will be issued. Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation is marking the occasion with DJ3K bracelets, and the Hall of Fame has talked to him about acquiring game-used mementoes from the day.

“Three thousand hits is pretty good,” Yankees great Yogi Berra said in an e-mail. “But I think Jeter cares more about winning than the other stuff.”

Always preferring to deflect attention away from himself and onto his teammates, Jeter has been reluctant to talk about the pursuit. He has said he does feel pressure to reach the mark at home, as he did in 2009 when he passed Gehrig for most career hits as a Yankee.

“I’d be lying to you if I told you I haven’t been thinking about it,” Jeter said after moving within seven hits Sunday. “It’s impossible for that not to be in your head, because I’m around that all the time.”

Winfield said the Minnesota Twins held him out of the lineup on the road several times, something he understood but wasn’t happy about, in order for the University of Minnesota star to notch the historic hit in front of his hometown fans.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi is doing everything he can to keep Jeter in the lineup before he club begins a road trip to Chicago and Cincinnati on June 17.

Returning home from a West Coast trip needing 14 hits in 10 games, Jeter has gone 7 for 28 (.250) in the first six.

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