Every year leading up to the All-Star Game, Major League Baseball tries their very hardest to push the story that the Mid-Summer Classic is actually important in the grand scheme of the season.
It’s a narrative that most fans don’t really buy into – pitchers only go one or two innings, position players are substituted in and out and the media tries to treat it as an actual game by making picks and predictions.
Yet, despite my tendency to dismiss the All-Star Game as somewhat of a ho-hum publicity stunt by the MLB, this All-Star Game, which took place at Citi Field in New York City, seemed intrinsically different.
The story to come out of this game was not simply the collection of the greatest players in baseball — it was a glorification of the sport and the rare conjunction of baseball past and baseball future together on the same field.
Baseball is special in that it is an exceptional sport to read about. You don’t have to have seen Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams or Babe Ruth to know of the aura that surrounds their name. Basketball and football, while they may have gained popularity over baseball, still cannot touch baseball as a pastime.
And that’s what was so unique about last night’s festivities. There was something almost eerie about Mariano Rivera being applauded by Manny Machado, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Matt Harvey and the other surprisingly numerous collection of young stars present. It was in essence the old giving way to the new era of baseball stars, who will undoubtedly forge their own legacies from this point forward.
As fans of the game, we marvel at the prospect of just how good Trout, Harper, Machado, et al are going to be with the limited sample size that we've been given. The very prospect of greatness makes us giddy; we long to say,“I saw him play.”
Last night, we were shown the next wave of MLB legends (minus Puig, who got snubbed) while simultaneously saying goodbye to a pitcher that will forever be etched in the lore of baseball. We were able to say, “I saw Rivera play, and I’m going to see these new guys play too.”
Twenty years from now we’ll still be talking about Rivera as one of the greatest to ever play the game of baseball. I suspect that, in that same breath, we’ll also be talking about one or more of Trout, Machado, Harper or Harvey as players who conjured their own legends and garnered their own accolades.
Someone in that group of phenomenal young players will be voted into Cooperstown, the fun part will be finding out whom.
By: Ryan Gilmore