It was finally here: the 2014 Midsummer Classic. The media was allowed on the field early for batting practice, and I was there trying to mingle with the players and other journalists. It was very hard interview anyone because the field was full of reporters and cameras. But Hunter Pence and Brandon Moss were both very nice to talk to me for a few minutes.
When practice was over, the pregame activities began. Teachers from each MLB city were honored, and there was a ceremony celebrating the 75th anniversary of Little League Baseball. Then it was time for the National Anthem, which was sung by Idina Menzel (you might know her as the voice of Elsa in Frozen). It was really cool to see the American flag spread across the field as she sang.
And then it was game time! Things got off to a fast start with a bang-bang play. The leadoff hitter, 2013 National League MVP and Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, hit the second pitch he saw up the middle. Derek Jeter dove to his left to snag the ball, popped up, and threw it to first. But McCutchen was called safe and spoiled Jeter’s majestic play. Fortunately for the American League, the play didn't lead to a run.
The bottom of the first began with what everyone knew would be an emotional moment: Jeter leading off to start the inning in his 14th and last All-Star Game. As he walked to the batter's box, the 41,048 people at Target Field gave him a big ovation and fans chanted his name.
The Captain repaid that welcome by hitting a stand-up double to right field on the second pitch of his at-bat. And if that weren't a big enough moment, the next batter, Angels superstar and huge Jeter fan Mike Trout, drove his idol home with a triple.
Seattle's Robinson Cano was next and struck out. Then 2013 AL MVP Miguel Cabrera took the plate and hit an absolute BOMB to left field to make the score 3-0. The NL would get a couple runs back in the second thanks to a pair of doubles hit by Phillies star Chase Utley and the Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy.
Jeter led off in the bottom of the third with a single, making him 2-2 in his final All Star Game. Then history happened in the top of the 4th inning. AL manager John Farrell took the Captain out of the game to bring in the White Sox's Alexi Ramirez. As the announcement was made the fans were cheering loudly while the song “New York, New York” played through the stadium. All the players, managers, and fans gave Jeter a standing ovation as he walked off the field.
In the fourth and fifth innings, the AL and NL got into a slugfest. The NL tied the game, 3-3, after a Lucroy double scored Dodgers speedster Dee Gordon from first. But a pair of back-to-back singles from Oakland's Derek Norris and Ramirez and a Trout double pushed the AL back in the lead, 4-3. Houston's Jose Altuve hit a sacrifice fly that brought in another run to make the score 5-3 in favor of the American League.
The rest of the game was a pitching duel. Reds left-hander Aroldis Chapman came on in the bottom of the 8th and threw a 102 mph fastball. And in the top of the ninth, Twin’s closer Glen Perkins threw a perfect inning to seal the AL's 5-3 victory.
After the game, Trout was named the MVP and was awarded the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award. In his thank you remarks, Trout mentioned that Jeter was his role model growing up in New Jersey. Very classy.
Besides the history of it being Jeter's last All-Star Game, he became the first Yankee in history to record three multi-hit All Star Games. And it was the first All Star Game in history where no pitcher threw more than one inning.
It was also my last day of an extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And it was a beautiful day for baseball.