I think it’s safe to say that very few people who took part in last night’s game, attended it, or even watched it on TV, will forget it anytime soon. For a year, there’s been hype surrounding the All-Star Game and the farewell to Yankee Stadium that it would afford. I’ve tried not to believe the hype but I actually think in this instance, it lived up to it, and then some.
Who knew Russell would come in during the fourth inning and play for 10 more? Or that the AL would threaten to score repeatedly during extra innings, only to get turned away time and again? Brandon Webb had completely ruled himself out for the game unless in an absolutely emergency and sure enough, there he was setting down the AL late in the game.
And how about J.D. Drew? The man so many Dodger fans grew to dislike because he didn’t show his emotions was clearly the runaway MVP, hitting the game’s only homer among three hits. A Red Sox player, in Yankee Stadium, helping the AL get home field advantage and still getting booed mercilessly.
All of that doesn’t even take into account the pregame ceremonies, which were as memorable as any I’d seen before. I spent the first few minutes of it in the National League dugout but as things got a little crowded, I wandered through a service tunnel and eventually watched the remainder of it from the visitor’s bullpen in left field.
Once the game started, I actually watched the first couple of innings from a perch high atop the foul pole in right field with several people from our offices before heading down to a suite around 10 p.m. for a meeting with some MLB colleagues. Then, I was fortunate to be given a tenth-row ticket behind the NL dugout for what I figured would be the final two and a half innings. It was there we watched the rest of the drama unfold.
I’m not sure about you guys, but I found myself rooting strongly for the NL like never before. I know a lot of people were against the idea of the All-Star Game deciding home field advantage and I was one of them. It did seem like an overreaction to the 2002 tie game in Milwaukee. But it absolutely changed the tenor of the game last night and no one who saw the NL’s fist-pumping reaction after getting out of a bases loaded, no out jam could argue that.
Unfortunately, I spent the better part of the extra innings going back and forth on my blackberry between Ned Colletti, Stan Conte and Kenji Nimura, the interpreter for Saito. As you probably know by now, the news on Saito was not good – he’s got a sprained ligament in his elbow – and he’s going to need six weeks to rehab it before we reevaluate the situation. The news was complicated by the fact that Saito wanted to make sure his family heard from him, not the news media (and rightfully so), so we were in a holding pattern for about an hour as midnight closed in at Yankee Stadium.
By the time it was all over, seemingly everyone in the stadium was emotionally and physically drained, from the players to the fans and the media. It was 1:40 when the game ended and nearly 3 a.m. by the time we actually got back to the hotel. But throughout the extra innings, I just kept wondering what the teams would do had they run out of pitchers. Thankfully, it didn’t happen and unfortunately, the AL’s dominance continued.
One final thought that I’ll leave everyone with was something that popped into my head around the 13th inning. I’m wondering why we select All-Star based on what they do in the first half of the season, rather than the entire year that transpires from one All-Star break to the next. It would seem a lot more fair to do that and a lot more likely that the right people would be selected. In reality, if you have a hot couple of months to start the year, you’re suddenly an All-Star and that’s an honor that should not be taken lightly.