All-Star experience brings back, creates memories
NEW YORK — Summertime brings back many childhood memories.
Running for the ice cream truck to get your chilled treat. Going for a swim to break the heat of the day. Spending the day in the carefree fashion that you can only enjoy as a kid.
If you grew up a baseball fan, the MLB All-Star Game might conjure up fond thoughts. For me, the opportunity to experience last week’s game at Citi Field in New York dug into the recesses of my mind — and I loved every minute of it.
Growing up a Mets fan in the 1980s and ‘90s provided many highs and lows, and more frustration than jubilation. The Amazins’ were more likely to break your heart and offer disappointment. But the All-Star Game was a nice respite.
It was an if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em moment for fans of teams that struggled through the first half. For one night, Ken Griffey, Jr. was in your lineup or Greg Maddux was starting on the hill for your squad. Every team is represented and the best are on display.
In one special evening, Red Sox and Yankees fans are on the same side. Rivals became teammates. And no matter your favorite team or its midseason record, your team stood a good chance to win.
If you look up at the out-of-town scoreboard, it’s the only game going. The only other time you see that is during the World Series. But the Midsummer Classic is once a year, and the game’s best are at every position.
The memories come quick. Some might remember Reggie Jackson hitting the light transformer in Detroit, or Pete Rose barreling over Ray Fosse in dramatic fashion.
Younger fans probably recall Torii Hunter robbing Barry Bonds of a homer, or maybe the fastball that Randy Johnson sailed past the head of John Kruk, who eventually struck out —embarrassingly I might add — and smiled about it.
Before the game even starts, you know you’re not at a regular MLB game. The opening ceremony leads to flashbulbs lighting up the stadium. It’s a surreal call to order.
Lineups are introduced, caps are tipped and smiles and hugs on the field officially bring the game’s best together. After the national anthem, you are reminded it’s New York City. A collection of NYPD helicopters fly overhead.
Tom Seaver throws out the ceremonial first pitch to the roar of a standing ovation. Tom Terrific, the greatest Met of all time, delights the crowd one more time. Moments later, the Mets’ newest star takes the mound — phenom Matt Harvey starting his first All-Star Game during his rookie season in his home ballpark.
A quick scan of the infield forces a double take. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Troy Tulowitzki and David Wright line the infield from first to third, with Yadier Molina catching. Many argue Molina was the first-half NL MVP for St. Louis.
New memories were created almost immediately. First up, probably the best young star in the game, Mike Trout.
Trout ripped a first-pitch fastball the other way down the right field line for a double. Harvey then hit crosstown rival Robbie Cano in the leg to a chorus of boos from the Yankees fans in attendance. Yankees fans always let you know they’re in the park!
With first and second and no outs, Harvey took it to another level and retired the next three batters. He struck out reigning Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, induced a flyout from current AL home run leader Chris Davis and mowed down Toronto slugger Jose Bautista. Not bad.
But it was the end of the night that stole the show. With “Enter Sandman” playing in a visiting ballpark, fans rise to their feet to greet the great Mariano Rivera. He jogs in from the left field bullpen.
He is the only player on the field during a three-minute standing ovation. How often do you see that? What a moment.
True to form, Rivera makes it look easy against three all-stars and pitches a scoreless eighth. He goes on to win the game’s MVP award — and create another all-star memory for baseball fans to enjoy forever.
Ernie Bertothy is a contributing writer to the Citizen’s News.