New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, playing the first game of his final season tonight in Houston, will look around Minute Maid Park and perhaps wonder.
Oh, how life could have been so different.
He's one of the greatest players in Yankee history, and part of the Core Four of Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte that won five World Series championships..
NIGTHENGALE: Jeter goes out on his terms
Yet, imagine him as part of one the greatest infields in history, with second baseman Craig Biggio and first baseman Jeff Bagwell, both likely Hall of Famers.
Yes, he could have - maybe should have - been an Astro.
"Instead, I get to hear about it every year at draft time,'' says Phil Nevin, who the Astros drafted first in the in the 1992 draft. Jeter was drafted sixth. "You always hear about the Brady Six. The six quarterbacks drafted ahead of Tom Brady.
"Well, we are the Jeter Five. The five biggest failures in the history of the game. I guess I can laugh about it now.
"You always hear people say things happen for a reason, but Derek Jeter was the perfect guy for that organization at that time. There was a reason the Yankees drafted sixth. They weren't very good. In a short time, they became the New York Yankees again.''
Dick Groch, now a special assistant to Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin, was the man responsible for Jeter becoming a Yankee. He saw Jeter for the first time when Jeter was a high school junior and scouted every game his senior year. He watched him in the stands. In the parking lot. Behind trees. He didn't want anyone to know about this talented kid out of Kalamazoo, Mich.
"I remember telling my wife,'' Groch says, "this is a once-in-a-lifetime situation. I knew this was going to be a special guy.
"I knew he'd be a great Yankee.''
So what if he never was a Yankee?
Groch pauses for almost a half-minute, and says: "He would still be a Cooperstown player, but the stage is different. Being a Yankee means playing in the toughest environment in all of sport, and playing at a championship level.
The only man who had as much conviction about taking Jeter was Astros scout and Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser. He begged the Astros to draft him. He insisted he would be a star. The Astros, who felt they needed a third baseman instead of a shortstop, drafted Nevin, the top collegiate player available.
Newhouser, who privately planned to retire at the end of the season anyways, quit in disgust.
"Clearly, any scout that has followed a player and had the feelings that he did towards Derek, was going to be greatly disappointed,'' said Brewers special assistant Dan O'Brien, the Astros' scouting director at the time. "I still remember Hal telling me he wanted to go out with a bang.
"We started with five candidates for that top pick, and narrowed it down to Nevin or Jeter.
"We went with Nevin. Dick got his man.''
Jeter has amassed 3,316 hits while winning those five World Series rings.
The Astros, meanwhile, still are looking for their first championship.
"Two Hall of Famers in the same infield," says O'Brien, "that's a pretty overwhelming image."
Instead, the Astros took Nevin.
And the Indians drafted pitcher Paul Shuey. The Expos took pitcher B.J. Wallace. The Orioles selected outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds. And the Cincinnati Reds took outfielder Chad Mottola.
"The team I was actually most worried about was the Reds,'' said Groch. "They had a part-time scout in Battle Creek (Mich.). I know Cincy liked him. Boy, things would have been so different if they got him."
So, just who were the Yankees planning to draft that day if Jeter had been selected in front of them, anyways?
"Jim Pittsley,'' Groch said. "He was our guy.''
Yes, the same Jim Pittsley drafted 17th by the Kansas City Royals, who won seven big league games and retired after the 1999 season.
Groch, who has tentative plans to be in attendance Sept. 25 for the Yankees' final regular-season game, says it will be surreal watching Jeter's career coming to an end. Yet, he'll forever be grateful, Groch says, that Jeter is going out his way.
"He deserves to go out playing one position for the New York Yankees, and that's shortstop.
"He's Derek Jeter. He is the heart and soul of baseball. He needs to be treated that way.
"You ask me, even when he retires, he'll still be the face of baseball.''
GALLERY: JETER THROUGH THE YEARS