2014 All-Star Game

The atmosphere was palpable. The air, crisp and cool as the sun was just beginning its daily setting routine, blissfully unaware of the sold-out crowd in Target Field there to watch 68 professional baseball players play the annual exhibition game known for the last 85 years as the All-Star Game. Within the stadium walls, as fans filtered in to watch their heroes on this July evening, players representing every team in the MLB took their last few minutes to allow for the build-up to the game that would decide which league would claim home field advantage in the Fall Classic this October, each player secretly praying they will be part of the team that benefits from tonight’s win.

The game featured first time All-Stars like Dellin Betances and Todd Frazier (Reds), returning young superstar All-Stars like Mike Trout (Angels) and Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins), rising stars like Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies) and Jose Altuve (Padres), regular faces like Robinson Cano (Mariners) and Ian Kinsler (Tigers) , and ASG veterans like Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) and Derek Jeter (pre-game speech to AL teammedia interview during game; press conference post-ASG). It was truly an All-Star Game in every way you can mean that. Someone half-joked that the lineups read like a perfect fantasy league, and I can’t say that I would argue with that. It really seemed like a great All-Star collection.

Though it was amusing at times to watch players who normally view each other from across the field as opponents try to work together as teammates. I seem to notice this in every ASG that the players aren’t used to working with each other so there’s often some kinks that play into what is essentially defensive weakness.

Pre-game ceremonies unfolded as usual, with introductions and recognition for every player elected or chosen to play or represent their team in tonight’s game. And of course, the biggest crowd cheer was for Jeter as he exited the dugout to jog on the field of an All-Star Game for his 14th and final time as a player. They unfurled a large flag, sang the national anthem, and took their spots to start tonight’s Mid-Summer Classic.

And when Jeter walked up to lead-off the American League at the bottom of the 1st inning, the entire sold-out crowd in Minneapolis was on their feet, chanting “Der-ek Je-ter” and recording every moment on their camera phones. Two pitches in and Jeter knocked a 91 mph cutter into the right field corner for a stand-up double, officially silencing critics and meeting expectations of all the fans worldwide watching in anticipation (including his family sitting just a few yards away in the seats). He went on to score on the next batter Trout’s beautiful triple. And two batters later, Cabrera knocks a 327 foot homer into the left field seats to push the AL up 3-0 over the NL.

The NL would fight back in the 2nd with back-to-back RBI doubles and then again in the 4th with another RBI double to tie up the game. But the AL was in it to win it. So in the 5th, the AL got two runners on base with singles who would score on an RBI double and a sacrifice fly to push the AL up 5-3 over the NL. And they would be able to maintain this lead to secure the AL home field advantage for the World Series.

Like in any exhibition game, the players came and went to give most of the roster (who could play) a chance to play in tonight’s game. In the top of the 4th inning, Jeter jogged out to shortstop only to be called back in and replaced by another player, and he jogged back to the dugout, nodding to the crowd before greeting every single player and coach in the dugout before one more cap-off to the cheering crowd.

And the MVP award was given to Mike Trout, who definitely earned the award, though most people agree that the sentimental favorite for Jeter would have been understood, especially because he went 2-for-2 with a double, single, and a run scored. But it was Trout’s 2-for-3, an RBI triple and an RBI double and a run scored, in addition to his defensive contribution from left field. Trout proudly accepted the crystal bat (the MVP trophy) and the sweet Corvette (over the truck, good choice by the way) from sponsor Chevrolet.

It was a perfect ending to a great game, the AL earning the win for Jeter’s final ASG (and hopefully for his final World Series Championship), and then Trout’s MVP award as if the torch of talent and excellence was graciously passed onto the next generation. Because isn’t that what it’s all about at the end of the day — moving forward into the future with hope and grace and excellence? It’s not the end of an era, but rather the continuation of the greatest game on earth. A game of legends, a game of futures, and a game of greatness in the moments we least expect.

{Note: You can find more video clips and interviews of the ASG with this MLB.com link.}

Go Yankees!

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