Long before he collected enough knocks to enter the door, the 3,000-hit club seemed to be Derek Jeter's destiny, at least in the eyes of members of that exclusive cadre of Major League hitters.
Now that he has become the 28th player to gain the key to Club 3,000, Jeter is right where he belongs, standing among the greatest hitters the game has ever seen.
Jeter enters the club as the fourth-youngest to arrive at 3,000 hits, and he ranks among the 10 fastest in terms of both games played and at-bats. He's the only one to get there playing shortstop exclusively, and he's the first to do it all while wearing Yankees pinstripes and grays.
The door to Club 3,000 is open to Jeter now, and those already inside are rolling out the red carpet for the new guy.
games to 3,000
"I'm a Derek Jeter fan," said Rod Carew, whose uniquely sweet left-handed swing churned out 3,053 hits en route to his place in Cooperstown. "I've watched this young man play since Day 1. I've always enjoyed the way he has played the game. When you go out there every day and you're consistent, good things happen.
"That's what has happened to Derek over the years as a hitter in the big leagues. He's been a consistent player, a consistent hitter, and I just want to say, Derek, welcome to the 3,000-hit club, and I want to wish you continued success."
Consistency is a hallmark for any member of Club 3,000, and Jeter certainly qualifies on many levels. Consistency with one team is hard to find, and Jeter becomes only the 11th player to get 3,000 hits while playing with a single team, in addition to being the first Yankees hitter to do so.
"With the history of the Yankees, the great teams and great players they've had there, they've had no one get to 3,000, and he's the first one? The significance of that is obviously tremendous," said Tony Gwynn, who carved out every one of his 3,141 hits in a Padres uniform.
Jeter joins Craig Biggio of the Astros, Cal Ripken Jr. of the Orioles, Gwynn of the Padres, Robin Yount of the Brewers, George Brett of the Royals, Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox, Al Kaline of the Tigers, Roberto Clemente of the Pirates, Stan Musial of the Cardinals and Cap Anson of the Chicago White Stockings/Colts (later known as the Cubs) as one-team members of the club.
"Derek's accomplishment is a little bit unique in that, No. 1 it's for the Yankees, and he's already the all-time hit leader for the most storied franchise in our game," said Paul Molitor, who had his first 2,281 hits with the Brewers but went over the threshold with his hometown Twins. "To be the only player to reach that milestone of 3,000 hits as a Yankee, it's going to attract, and understandably so, a tremendous amount of attention.
"I've always had a lot of respect for Derek and how he's handled everything that's come his way as a member of the Yankees, and in that city for that team."
Jeter's ascension to 3,000 hits scores well among his new peers on several levels, both in terms of his arrival time and current rank among the career numbers of the club's members.
By breaking through at the age of 37 years and 13 days, Jeter gets there older than Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron were, and only a matter of days older than Robin Yount was. Cobb was 34 when he reached the mark in 1921, and Aaron was 36 years and 101 days old when he hit No. 3,000 in 1970. Yount was seven days from his 37th birthday when he reached the milestone in 1992.
at-bats to 3,000
"You get 3,000 hits because of longevity, and I guess that's what I'm most proud of," Yount said.
Jeter ranks the seventh-fastest to 3,000 in terms of games, with 2,362, and 10th-fastest in terms of at-bats, with 9,602, although the number of at-bats for the earliest club members varies, depending on the source.
Cobb -- who, incidentally, is not a one-team member because he played his last two seasons with the Philadelphia A's -- is considered the fastest in both regards, with his 2,135 games historically accepted and a widely reported 8,093 at-bats.
By any measure, Jeter is the fastest since Gwynn and Wade Boggs landed on the mountain within three days of each other in 1999. Gwynn reached the plateau in 2,284 games (No. 3) and 8,874 at-bats (No. 6) when he hit No. 3,000 on Aug. 6. Boggs was at 2,430 games but made it in just 9,151 at-bats. Aaron ranks just ahead of Jeter in at-bats, with 9,566; Paul Waner ranks ahead in games, at 2,314.
With time remaining in his career, Jeter already compares favorably in terms of the career numbers posted by members of Club 3,000. When it comes to the key stat to gain entry -- hits -- 15th place is only 150 away, and the top 10 is 315 away (Eddie Collins, 3,315).
jeter's ranks in the 3000 club
1. Hank Aaron
2. Willie Mays
11. Rickey Henderson
12. Craig Biggio
13. Robin Yount
14. Roberto Clemente
15. Derek Jeter
1. Rickey Henderson
2. Ty Cobb
10. Carl Yastrzemski
11. Paul Molitor
12. Honus Wagner
13. Derek Jeter
That is to say, Jeter has hit the big number, and he's still hitting.
"For a contact hitter, 3,000 hits are like 500 homers for a power hitter or 300 wins for a pitcher. It's the Holy Grail. That's what you have to get to," Gwynn said. "I'm sure for Derek Jeter this is a major milestone he's been aiming at. He's more than a contact hitter, though, to me."
Indeed. He's 15th among Club 3,000 members in homers, with 237, while checking in at 13th in runs (1,726) and 10th in steals (330). He's three away from catching Clemente in homers, 14 away from Yount and 54 away from Biggio. In runs, he's within 100 of the top 10, with Yastrzemski at 10th, with 1,816. In steals, he's eight shy of Willie Mays and 23 from Carew.
Jeter is the epitome of the completeness it takes to reach that magic number.
"That's one thing about 3,000 hits: It's not a fluke," Kaline said. "It's not a one-year-wonder type thing. It's 15 years or better, being consistent and being healthy. He's been a great player."
Added Molitor: "As indicated by the small number of people that have done it, it speaks of people that are blessed with longevity, talent and passion. You don't play that long and accomplish something like that unless you have a tremendous passion for the game."
Already the all-time Major League leader in hits as a shortstop, Jeter now joins such luminaries of the position as Ripken, Yount and Honus Wagner -- all of whom made shortstop their primary position, but none throughout his 3,000-hit career. Jeter surpassed Luis Aparicio's mark of 2,673 hits as a shortstop on Aug. 16, 2009, a few weeks before becoming the Yankees' all-time hits leader by surpassing Lou Gehrig that Sept. 11 with No. 2,722.
Though the Iron Horse unfortunately fell short, four other players who played in Yankees pinstripes at some point in their careers reached 3,000 hits -- Dave Winfield (1,130 hits as a Yankee), Boggs (702), Rickey Henderson (663) and Waner (one). But no one before Jeter wore them while hitting No. 3,000.
En route to the magic number, Jeter has reached the 200-hit plateau seven times, one short of Gehrig's club record and tied for fourth on the all-time list, three behind the top mark of 10 shared by Pete Rose and Ichiro Suzuki. Jeter also has amassed 15 seasons with 150 hits, putting him in a fifth-place tie on that chart, behind Rose, Cobb and Tris Speaker at 18, and Aaron at 17. Club 3,000 members Ripken, Musial and Collins all have 15 150-hit seasons as well.
Add it all up, and Jeter has accomplished what only 27 other men who played in the Majors have done. It's a big number, a famous number, a number that takes even the most decorated of careers to the next level.
Derek Jeter is in Club 3,000.
"After the fact, and after it happens, he's really going to savor the moment, really look at it and think how hard it was to do that and get there," Biggio said.
Said Gwynn: "As you get older, you know what the significance of it is if you can get there. Obviously, getting to the Hall of Fame is something he's not thinking that much about right now. But getting 3,000 hits almost guarantees it."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. Reporters Jason Beck, Barry Bloom, Jordan Schelling, Adam McCalvy and Brian McTaggart contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.