NEW YORK -- This was this generation’s ‘It Moment’ at the All-Star Game and every player knew right where he was.
When New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera took the field in the eighth inning of the Midsummer Classic Tuesday night at Citi Field, he was the only player on the diamond.
Out of respect for his 13th and final All-Star appearance, none of Rivera’s American League teammates took the field until he received the full acknowledgment of the New York crowd. It was a moment that has been highly expected since Rivera announced he would retire at the end of the 2013 season.
Chris Sale didn’t want to miss it for anything.
“Sitting in the dugout, front row, just trying to soak up every minute of it,” Sale said. “He’s the best to ever walk the planet. … I didn’t skip a beat. I stayed in full (uniform). That was the one thing I anticipated most was watching him pitch. What a moment.”
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Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander had quite an experience of his own with Rivera.
Verlander was the first to greet Rivera as he came off the field after a 1-2-3 inning and gave the closer a bear hug.
“I didn’t plan on being the first one out there,” Verlander said. “I just kind of walked out to show my respect for his career and what he’s done. For him to be the first one to come over and give me a hug, what an experience. That’s an experience I’ll never forget. That is a moment. 100 percent.”
Jesse Crain said it reminded him of the final All-Star appearances of Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken at the 2001 All-Star Game in Seattle.
Ripken homered in his final at-bat several innings after he Alex Rodriguez implored Ripken to move over from third base to shortstop for the game’s first inning. The game was later stopped when both Gwynn and Ripken exited the field.
A first-time All-Star, Crain’s goal this week was to meet Rivera and talk to him. He spoke to Rivera in the bullpen a few innings before the closer began to warm up and then headed for the dugout to capture the event.
“I recorded it on my phone so it’s something I’ll always have,” Crain said. “Especially being a relief pitcher, that’s THE guy if there ever is one. It was pretty special to be a part of and be a teammate of his for a couple days. … Today I got to talk to him a little bit when he came down to the bullpen. It was pretty cool. Mission accomplished.”