The 85th Annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game will get underway tonight at Target Field, home of the host Minnesota Twins. The focus for fans of the New York Yankees and baseball fans everywhere, is the final hurrahs of 14-time All-Star, member of the 3,000-hit club, and face of baseball for the better part of two decades, Derek Jeter.
“All-Star Games are fun. I’ve said it from the very first one I went to in 1998,” Jeter said. “It’s an honor. It’s a privilege. Every player wants to be a part of an All-Star Game. I try to take each one and have as much fun as I can.” (h/t, Rhett Bollinger, MLB.com)
While Jeter is the elder statesman of the American League squad, the team is far from lacking in star power, led by the likes of Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, and Jose Bautista. Unfortunately for Yankees’ fans, the rookie sensation, Masahiro Tanaka, who was originally selected for the AL squad, will miss tonight’s game, and could perhaps, miss the remainder of the season. It was revealed earlier last week that Tanaka suffered a partial tear of his UCL, and rest and rehab will determine the next course of action. Fire-balling reliever Dellin Betances will make his All-Star debut for the Yankees, having been a former top pick as a starting pitcher, and converted to the bullpen last season in the minors.
The American League has nothing to fear however, as Felix Hernandez received the starting nod from AL and Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell. Farrell believes although filling out the entire roster was difficult, the squad is loaded and should show well for the host American Leaguers:
“I wouldn’t necessarily call this an ugly job, because it is quite an honor to be sitting here and certainly an honor to be managing in this game,” Farrell said. “But I have to say that arriving at our final roster was a difficult process. Very tough, very deserving players did not make it.”
The visiting National Leaguers will be no pushover though. St. Louis Cardinals’ and NL skipper Mike Matheny has a team that is loaded to the hilt as well, led by reigning National League MVP Andrew McCutchen and power-hitting shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Matheny is going to go with familiarity when it comes to his starter for tonight’s extravaganza, handing the ball to Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright. It was a tough decision with Los Angeles Dodgers’ lefty Clayton Kershaw also an option. Wainwright is tickled to be given an opportunity to start his first All-Star Game:
“Aside from having the ability to win two World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals, I think this has to be one of the highlights of my baseball career to this point,” Wainwright said. “One of the coolest things I can say I did is to start a big league All-Star Game.”
As fans are well aware, the winning league of the Midsummer Classic, also receives home field advantage during this season’s World Series. While the Red Sox are buried deep in the lower half of the American League Eastern Division, and will most likely not repeat as World Series Champions, Matheny and his Cardinals are very much in the hunt in their quest to return to the Fall Classic. The Cardinals entered the All-Star break only one game back of first place Milwaukee in the National League Central.
Many have called for the abandonment of the home field advantage tie-in to the All-Star Game, it most likely won’t be reviewed or removed until current Commissioner Bud Selig leaves office. He is scheduled to retire just after the turn of the new year, so 2014 could be the final All-Star Game to have this rule in place.
For Jeter, he remembers his first Midsummer Classic back in 1998, being the new kid on the All-Star squad, and seeing players like Cal Ripken, Jr., and being afraid to say anything and just being in absolute awe of the situation:
“You’re afraid to say anything; I mean, it’s Cal Ripken,” Jeter said. “Even though I’d played against him, I hadn’t really had a chance to talk to him. There are a lot of stories like that when you come to your first one. That’s why I enjoy watching guys experience it for the first time.”
For Jeter, he hopes that younger players that have looked up to him while growing up, aren’t hesitant to approach him. They are All-Stars too, and he hopes to convey that he is approachable to anyone that wishes to converse with him. AL manager John Farrell when announcing the starting lineups, has the Captain hitting lead-off for the home squad. Jeter figures to play 4 innings or so, and will receive a hero’s send-off when he is replaced, most likely in the bottom of the 4th or 5th inning.
“It’s a rare and unique opportunity,” Farrell said. “At the same time, we are able to celebrate a player who is not only a champion, but a guy that sets the bar that I think all players should aspire to.”
From those of us at Yanks Go Yard, we wish to say “Thank you” to the Captain, for two decades of memories, and to one more well-deserved celebration on the world stage, for everything you’ve been, everything you’ve done, and everything you are to the game of baseball. The game is a better sport for having you been a part of it, and for the impact you’ve had on millions of children who have grown into men–some of whom are playing alongside you tonight.