The 84th MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field was one for the ages.
I arrived at Citi Field on Tuesday night early enough to watch batting practice, one of my favorite parts of going to games, where some of the best hitters in all of baseball were hitting the ball out of the park with ease. Meanwhile, sitting in my seats in right-center only feet away from players in the outfield was an incredible experience in itself. In what other moment would fans be able to see Clayton Kershaw, Clay Buchholz, and Chris Sale mingling while shagging fly balls alongside the sons of Mariano Rivera and Prince Fielder? On my right were players like Justin Masterson and Grant Balfour, who each threw balls to fans in the seats behind them. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience — after all, the All-Star Game is the one time during baseball season when league rivalries are set aside and players are allowed to truly enjoy themselves.
When it came time to announce the starting line-ups, several things stood out: although there were a few fans who booed him, it was a delight to see former Met Carlos Beltran greeted with cheers as he made his return to Citi Field. David Wright, batting cleanup, received one of the greatest ovations I’ve ever heard at the ballpark. And Matt Harvey? Even bigger. Mets fans were well-represented, their cheers causing an unexplainable electricity within the park.
I couldn’t imagine a better way to kick off the All-Star Game than with Matt Harvey on the mound. Mike Trout, first-pitch swinging at a 97 MPH fastball, ripped a double down the first base line to open up the game. Two pitches later, Robinson Cano was hit. And there it was. Just like that, in Matt Harvey‘s most-watched career start to date, he pitched himself into trouble with one of the league’s best hitters, Miguel Cabrera, coming to the plate.
However, in typical Harvey fashion, he was able to handle the high-pressure situation and the spotlight perfectly — literally. He worked out of trouble, striking out Cabrera on a 92 MPH slider, followed by a Chris Davis flyout and a Jose Bautista strikeout. The hometown kid went on to retire all three batters in order during his second and final inning of work.
As the youngest starting pitcher in an All-Star Game since fellow Met Dwight Gooden in 1988, and in his first full season in the majors, Harvey continued to make a name for himself last night. He remained calm, buckled down, and pitched with confidence as he has shown all year. As a Mets fan in 2013, there haven’t been many bright spots, but with a young stud on the mound and the Captain going 1 for 3 last night, the Mets made Mets fans proud on one of the biggest stages in the game.
Over the last few years, baseball fans have been treated with many historic All-Star Games, including Chipper Jones‘ final appearance just last year. This year was no different, with Yankees closer Mariano Rivera taking the mound in the 8th inning. Mo, who was honored with the ASG MVP Award, pitched a 1-2-3 inning to retire Jean Segura, Allen Craig, and Carlos Gomez. Fans at Citi Field — including Mets diehards — kept it classy after he retired the side, giving him a standing ovation. It was a bittersweet moment for a future Hall of Famer during his final game at Citi Field.
All in all, the first Mets hosting of an All-Star Game in 49 years was well worth the wait, despite the NL’s loss. Fans got to see excellent pitching, clutch hitting, and a few peculiar plays in-between — it’s not often Prince Fielder legs out a triple.
The atmosphere was unbelievable, and to be part of the largest crowd in Citi Field history is a moment I’ll never forget.
Thoughts from Danny Abriano:
Being at last night’s All-Star Game was surreal. I attended every one of the All-Star Week events (Fan Fest, All-Star Sunday, and the Home Run Derby), but last night was on another level. Outside the ballpark prior to the game, there was a palpable buzz in the air. It was incredibly hot and insanely crowded, but the excitement that awaited inside seemed to give everyone in attendance an extra jolt of energy.
Once inside, things I had only seen on television (starting from when I was a little kid sitting on the floor staring up at the tube) came to life right in front of me for the first time. There was all the pomp and circumstance, including the introductions of the players on the field, the appearance by The Franchise, Tom Seaver, and the flyover after the National Anthem.
What made this night extra special, though, was the fact that two Mets were deservedly front and center. David Wright, who will likely be here for the rest of the career, received a rousing ovation when he was introduced, and had an ear to ear smile on his face all night. He gave the fans a memory when he lined a single to left in his final at bat of the night.
Even with Wright there, it seemed like Matt Harvey owned the evening. The National League starter, who burst onto the scene last year and is blowing everyone away this season, was front and center as the game got underway.
The noise was deafening when Harvey, who was warming up in the outfield, was introduced. As he slowly made his way to the National League dugout after he was finished warming up, I began to realize the magnitude of what I was about to witness.
Prior to last night, the Mets had hosted one All-Star Game (at Shea in 1964). Not only was Harvey selected to be an All-Star in his first full season, he was about to take the mound as the starter for the National League in front of a packed house at his home ballpark.
After allowing a leadoff double and drilling Robinson Cano, Harvey did what he’s been doing all year. He struck out Miguel Cabrera with a vicious 92 MPH slider, and got Chris Davis to pop out to center field. With the decibel level in the ballpark rising, Jose Bautista came to the plate to face Harvey with two on and two outs.
The packed house roared as Harvey pumped in a 96 MPH fastball for strike one. He then broke off a ridiculous 92 MPH slider to get ahead in the count 0-2. It was at that point, that something that I hadn’t seen since Shea Stadium closed began to happen. Simultaneously, every fan in the ballpark stood up and began to go wild, screaming their heads off and clapping their hands in anticipation of the third strike. I implored everyone around me to get up by screaming and waving my arms, but they were already doing it without my prodding. The count went to 2-2, and with everyone still up as one, still roaring, Harvey blew away Bautista with a 92 MPH slider tailing away. The crowd went berserk, Harvey strolled off the mound, and Citi Field felt like Shea.
Harvey then tossed a perfect second inning, retiring David Ortiz, Adam Jones (via strikeout) and Joe Mauer. His night was done, but he had given the crowd all they’d asked for and more. The 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field was the Matt Harvey Show, something that’s hopefully an appetizer to what It’ll be like when he’s on the mound at Citi Field the next time the team makes the Playoffs.
Thoughts from Rich Sparago:
Thoughts on the All Star Game Experience
From a personal perspective:
I consider myself to be fortunate. I’ve had the opportunity to attend Mets’ spring training games, hundreds of regular season games, and all 1986 and 1999 home post season games. However, until this week, I had never attended any All Star festivities. I wasn’t around for 1964, and had to endure All Star games at Yankee Stadium in 1977 (when Seaver was introduced as a Red) and 2008. Then, with eager anticipation, July 15th, came. The Home Run Derby was what I expected it to be. It was fun for a while, and eventually became repetitive. But I’m glad I had the chance to be there. The game was an incredible experience. Seeing the best players from the game we love on the same field was truly special. It was refreshing to be at Citi and not really care about the outcome of the game. It was star-studded, stress-free baseball. It was a wonderful experience, and it was, for me, long overdue.
From a baseball perspective:
The Mets have occupied Citi Field since 2009, and as we know, there has never been much electricity in the park. Sure, emotions can run high during the Subway Series, but half of that is created in an attempt to drown out the noises of the visiting fans. On Monday night, the building rocked when David Wright was introduced during the Derby, and it rocked even more on Tuesday night when Wright and Harvey took their places among the starting nine. The excitement was palpable, the kind of positive, visceral reaction that Mets fans haven’t generated since 2006. There was no talk about trading this player, releasing that one, or when the organization’s “plan” was going to come together. There was genuine excitement about the players, the Mets players, on the field. When the game began, Matt Harvey worked out of first inning trouble, setting down 3 all stars in a row after two were on with no outs. David Wright played 6 innings, and departed having generated one of the NL’s 2 hits. Harvey and Wright performed well, validating the positive feelings permeating the stands. Later, the crowd joined Neil Diamond as he sang “Sweet Caroline”. In the end, we saw Citi Field host its first, of what we can safely say will be many, wonderful events. Future such events will be Mets, rather than All-Star, centric. And that’s downright awesome.