On Tuesday night, in undoubtedly the most historic city for professional baseball in the United States, New York, Major League Baseball staged its 83rd All-Star game.
Oddly enough, in one of the nation’s oldest towns, playing one of the world’s oldest games, it was the kids who were dominating attention.
That is a good sign for baseball. It bodes well for longevity. And if this year’s Midsummer Classic is any indication of the future, then pro baseball is definitely back and on the right track.
Even though there is a definite youth movement in MLB, tradition still reigns supreme when it comes to choosing sides. And in the end, the grizzled veterans gave a lesson to baseball’s babies.
Fans vote for their favorite players at each position and stuff ballot boxes at the ballpark. Nowadays, they can vote online, which makes it even more likely — or modern and youthful — their heroes will get the votes they need to make the starting line-up.
Once the votes are collected and each position has its starter, the manager, who is the previous season’s World Series skipper from his respective league, fills out the remaining roster with the players he deems deserving.
It is an old, yet very fair and effective way to select not only the most popular, but also the most productive players over the first half of the season in each league.
While fans have no problem, and are often giddy, to vote in a kid only a few years out of his high school uniform, coaches are more pragmatic, choosing the tried and true players they have either coached or coached against for several years.
It’s a good mix and a perfect way to keep the fans involved in the game.
This year’s All-Star exhibition included 12 players 24-years-old or younger. There were also 12 players who were rookies last season competing in this year's game — 10 of them for the first time.
The two that had been here before were reigning Rookies of the Year, Bryce Harper of the National League and Mike Trout of the American League. Both players are far from suffering sophomore slumps and are backing up their selections as baseballs best new kids on the block.
And before the first inning was over, both had made a mark on this week’s festivities. Trout doubled on the first pitch of the game off NL starter Matt Harvey, who is barely 24 years old himself, and Harper made it to the final round of the Home Run Derby the night before.
Tuesday's contest was far from a "Little League" exhibition, however. Both sides boasted many players now in their prime and considered among the best in the game.
Last year’s triple crown winner and AL MVP, Miguel Cabrera, of the Detroit Tigers, who is on pace for better offensive numbers than 2012, and home run phenom Chris Davis from the Baltimore Orioles, were both in the AL starting lineup.
They were factors in the first (and as it turned out, the winning) score the of the game in the top of the fourth inning. Cabrera hit a double and Davis followed with a base hit. Cabrera then scored on a sacrifice fly by Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Despite the hoopla over the babes in the woods and their projected offensive prowess, it was veteran pitching and defense that set the tone for this game. The AL pitching staff two-hit the NL All-Stars and didn’t allow a runner past second base.
AL manager Jim Leyland of the Detroit Tigers rolled out Max Scherzer for one inning, Chris Sale for two, Felix Hernandez, Matt Moore and Grant Belfour for one each. Then as if to merely toy with the opposition — not to mention give everyone a chance to play — he used Greg Holland, Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar for one out each in the seventh inning.
That set the stage for the legendary Mariano Rivera. With a 3-0 lead going into the bottom of the eighth inning, Leyland called for the “Sandman”.
Though Rivera has pitched for the cross-town New York Yankees since 1996, the ovation from the crowd in the New York Mets' home stadium raised goose bumps on everyone watching. Even before the closer with the most saves in the history of the game threw a pitch, he had become the man of the hour.
As he warmed up, the capacity crowd was on its feet watching the lean right-hander — who has recorded 638 career saves using his signature split-finger fastball — prepare for his final All-Star moment.
The fans roared as the “Sandman” recorded three outs against three batters on just 16 pitches. The most memorable moment of the 2013 All-Star Game had been sealed, even though there was still an inning left to play.
Rivera, 43, who has played with dominance and class for 19 years, produced what could easily be used as an outstanding closing scene if they shoot a film version of his life story.
The NL managed one more anti-climactic hit off of Texas Ranger reliever Joe Nathan, who was officially credited with the save in the AL's 3-0 victory.
Detroit Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, referring to the legendary Rivera, said, “That was the plan, man, to win it for him. It was an honor to be behind him in this game.”
While it may have been more in celebration of his fantastic career than for his performance on this night — a fittingly dominant effort — Rivera was voted the games’ MVP.
As baseball continues to usher in the young stars of its future and celebrate the possibilities that lie ahead, it was the aligning of the stars that made this All-Star game's mark in the history books.
The brightest star of all was one of New York’s own and it was shining in the city that built professional baseball as we know it today.
Kenny Bristow is the staff sports writer for the Wasatch Wave and contributes to the Deseret News high school coverage for the Wasatch region. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. To contribute to DNews Preps for your area, enquire at 801.237.2143.
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