NEW YORK -- While baseball fans are accustomed to seeing Derek Jeter play shortstop, the Yankees icon took a few hours out of his offseason on Wednesday night to adopt the role of Santa's helper.
Jeter made a surprise visit at his Turn 2 Foundation's Holiday Express event at Yankee Stadium, where he hosted more than 500 children from the five boroughs of New York City and helped Santa pass out gifts.
"This event for our foundation, for our family, is probably the one we look forward to most," Jeter said. "Any time you're talking about the holiday season and have the opportunity to give back and meet a lot of kids -- 500-600 kids -- you want them to have fun. Everyone should feel special during the holiday season.
"We get the opportunity to give them all gifts, which they look forward to. I really don't think they look forward to seeing me any more -- it's Santa and the elves and all the gifts."
Jeter, wearing a walking boot on his injured left ankle, also took the opportunity to address any concerns about his health during his rehabilitation this winter and the new-look Yankees that fans should expect to see in the Bronx come spring.
"Other guys are going to have to step up," Jeter said of the club, which has already lost free agents Eric Chavez and Russell Martin to other teams, and will likely be without Alex Rodriguez for the start of the season. "We've lost a lot of people throughout the years, especially last year, and other guys were able to do it. You can't sit around and hang your head, you have to move forward."
And, though the Yankees' front office has vowed recently to trim payroll, Jeter said he wouldn't be at all surprised if the team still made a splash this offseason.
"I don't know what to make of it," Jeter said. "It's the Yankees. I'll believe it when we get to Spring Training. Just when you expect us not to do something, something happens. That's pretty much been the norm in the 17 years that I've been here. So I really don't know what's going to happen."
The Yankees shortstop was injured in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Tigers, when he ranged toward second base for a grounder and his ankle buckled beneath him. It forced him out of the postseason for the first time in his career, and the Yankees were eventually swept by the Detroit in four games.
"It's tough to deal with because you play the entire season to get to that position," Jeter said. "It was Game 1 of the ALCS with the chance to go to the World Series. To get hurt and to have it finish like that, it's tough to deal with."
Jeter said he's been walking for seven to 10 days, and he admitted the past five to six weeks have been tough while he's been able to do nothing much more than sit on the couch with his foot elevated.
"But now, I feel as though I'm moving around pretty good," Jeter said. "I think I'm right where I need to be."
When asked if he expected to be in the Opening Day lineup, he answered immediately and with confidence: "Yeah. Why not? I did it ... six weeks, seven weeks [ago]? It's been a while. So we still have still have quite some time before Opening Day. My hope is to get back as soon as possible."
Jeter spent the rest of the evening addressing the crowd of children who had gathered in the Bronx and handing out the gift bags that the Jeter's Leaders organization assembled at their annual holiday gift wrapping at Yankee Stadium earlier this winter -- made possible with items donated by the Yankees and sponsors of the Turn 2 Foundation.
"The best part about this event is not only that it happens annually, but the kids' faces when you see them walking in, and their smiles warms my heart every time," said Cindy, one of Jeter's Leaders. "Just being able to give back to the community is the best feeling in the world."