It may have been the wrong inning, but in the end it didn’t really matter.
Mariano Rivera, the Yankees living legend, got a heroes sendoff last night at Citi Field during the 84th MLB All-Star game. Rivera entered the game during the 8th inning to a rousing ovation from the Citi Field crowd. Some may have been a litle surprised to see the games greatest closer come in to get his first All-Star game hold, but American League manager Jim Leyland simply wanted to ensure that Rivera would pitch, and wasn’t about to take any chances.
With only a two run lead going into the 8th inning AL manager Jim Leyland made the right call going to Mariano, even if it meant that baseball fans around the world let out a collective, “huh” when they saw Rivera making his way from the bullpen an inning early.
In a game that no single player truly seized, the stars were aligned for Rivera to win his first All-Star game MVP, and the first by a Yankee since Derek Jeter took home the award during the 2000 mid-summer classic. Fittingly, Rivera becomes the first closer to ever win the award.
After throwing a perfect 8th inning, Rivera walked off the field to the cheers of fans, players, and coaches who understood just how special of a moment it was for the future hall of famer. Tori Hunter, who’s faced Rivera with the game on the line countless times throughout his career, weighed in on the significance of the moment.
“There’s never been anyone like him, man,” Hunter said. “So you’d better appreciate it. We won’t see anybody like that ever again.”
And he’s right, Rivera, who brings a rare combination of talent and class to the game, truly is one of the great ones, and on a night of stars at Citi Field it was only fitting that Rivera shined the brightest.