There are three occasions every year in which Major League Baseball, takes "center stage". In late March or early April there is "Opening Day" in which all 30 Major League teams begin their quest for the "holy grail" know as the World Series Championship. In late October there is the "Fall Classic" in which the best teams in both the American League and the National League compete for the World Series Championship. In Mid-July we have the fan favorite the Mid- Summer Classic or All Star Game which showcases the best that both the American and National leagues have to offer in a one game exhibition.
Fans across America after voting for the best starting lineups from both the American and National leagues are given the opportunity to bear witness to an annual exhibition of sport featuring baseball royalty. Traditionally this is an "exhibition" game for the fans and has featured the best young and veteran talent that the game has to offer. Each year most of the players, after being selected by the fans, barring an unfortunate injury arrive at the designated city for that year and take part in a four hour contest that has featured many memorable moments over the years.
In 1985 the game was complimented by the addition of another exhibition known as the Home Run Derby. This competition takes place the night before the game and allows the fans yet another opportunity to witness current major league players showcasing their skills in what is usually an awesome display of power and stamina. Again this spectacle produces a mixture of talent from each league and enhances the overall experience for the fans.
On the night of the All Star game regardless of team loyalty, (Redsox, Yankees, Phillies or Mets) we all root for the same team. We root for the American League or the National League because on this night all of the greats are on the same team. For one night rivalries don't exist. During the player introductions we can actually root for the legends who on any other night are our rivals. This is the beauty of this game. One of my all time favorite moments took place in 1999 at Fenway Park when the All Century team was introduced. What a magical night. The collection of talent amassed on the field at Fenway that night was unprecedented and it is unlikely that it will be equaled anytime soon. Ted Williams and Tony Gwynn both in attendance that evening as members of the all century team engaged in a conversation about hitting that was captured by cameras and microphones. The conversation was short in duration but one likely to be remembered for the ages.
While the game is held annually to honor and show appreciation for the support of the fans, this year is a year that beckons us as fans to turn the tables and show our appreciation as fans for one of the true greats of the game. This year, this night needs to be about honoring a man that has been the face of Major League Baseball for the past 19 seasons. This night needs to be a Mid Summer Classic that pays homage to the great career of Derek Jeter. This night needs to be a night when a thunderous ovation accompanies his every at bat. This night Jeter plays all nine. This night Baseball Nation does not stop showing their appreciation for all that Jeter has done because collectively they will not get another chance.
This will be Jeter's 14th and final all star game.(Ninth as a starter) For the past 19 years in an era that has been marred by the usage of PED's, he has always played the game " the right way" and represented it with integrity. He has been a leader. He has been clutch. ( See Mr. November) He has been gritty. He has been fundamentally sound. He has been a role model for boys and girls all across America. He has been a true "Champion". He is a first ballot Hall of Famer and a legend of professional sports in America.
His career has been one continuous highlight film. Who could forget the full speed crash into the left field bleachers to catch a ball against the Redsox, only to come out bruised and bloodied? Or the play against the A's in the playoffs when he came across the field to take a cutoff and gun down Jeremy Giambi at the plate?Or his homerun on his 3000th hit that helped the Yankees win a ballgame? Throughout his career, game after game, Jeter simply "got it done" and he did the right way. He did it through hard work, grit and commitment. He is certainly one of the greatest Yankees ever to put on the blue pin stripes.
I will miss watching Derek Jeter at the plate never wasting an at bat, on defense never giving up on a play and in the post game interviews, always being the consummate and classy professional. For the past 19 years he has been class, grace and grit personified. As he makes this mid summer stop, this final time on his farewell tour, fans across this great nation regardless of team loyalty, need to acknowledge and show appreciation for his work ethic, his achievements and his contributions to the great game of baseball. Class acts like Jeter only come around every so often.