My All-Star Game experience began with a walk. And, no, I’m not talking about a base on balls. This was a late afternoon stroll down South Capitol Street in Washington, D.C., from my internship on Capitol Hill down to the parking lot by Nationals Park where I would meet up with my parents and brother.
Donning my red Aaron Nola jersey, I was psyched. I had been watching the MLB All-Star Game ever since I became a baseball fan almost a decade ago, from the years of when it counted to the years when it didn’t count, but I have always enjoyed the uniqueness of the game. To me, the MLB All-Star Game is the best All-Star Game of the four major sports. The unparalleled tradition, highlighted by the fact that it is the only time you will see many of these stars on the same field even with inter-league play, makes this exhibition better than them all.
I meet up with my family, and we headed into the stadium. Along the way, we saw all sorts of jerseys from across the league, though mostly of teams that are geographically close to the Nationals. Of course, we saw plenty of Scherzer, Strasburg and Harper jerseys, but we also saw plenty wearing Machado, Judge and a collection of Phillies players, too. The energy around the stadium was high, but it did not carry the intensity of going to a regular season game. Before those, I always wonder if my team is going to win. Before the All-Star Game, I just wanted to have a good time. It carried more of a “going to a concert” vibe than going to a “sporting event” vibe, and I could feel this as we approached the stadium.
Just before entering the right field gate, we took a quick pit stop at the deconstruction of MLB’s Play Ball park. While the park had closed, the fence around it had not been taken down. On this fence were MLB’s All-Stars. I took a picture next to Nola, and my younger brother got his next to Harper.
We entered Nationals Park through the right field gate, as we do for normal Nationals games. I don’t quite remember what time it was, but it was early; the lines were not that long, and it only took us a few minutes to walk through security and into the stadium. Most of the concourse was still drying out from the torrential rain that had hit the city earlier in the day, but the rain would not return to the point where it affected play.
Almost immediately, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted legendary baseball writer Peter Gammons walking along the concourse just beyond the last row of seats in right field. I said to my dad, “I think that’s Peter Gammons,” and after he confirmed that he, too, believed that it was, I ran over there to say hi.
Gammons was incredibly friendly. Even though he had a TV appearance in just a few minutes, he stopped to chat. I told him that I was a baseball writer, and that he followed me on Twitter. Before he had to go, I got his autograph on my ticket. The whole experience was so exciting; Gammons is truly the legend in this industry.
After meeting Gammons, my family decided to eat our dinner at Shake Shack, located on the upper level of the right field concourse. The line was fairly long, so I decided to go into the seats to watch batting practice. As only one can during an All-Star Game, I saw aces Aaron Nola, Zack Greinke and Max Scherzer chatting in the outfield; J.T. Realmuto and Christian Yelich (former teammates) playing catch; and plenty of players milling around and just enjoying themselves. You really don’t see big league players relax as much as I did during batting practice of the All-Star Game.
Most of you probably watched the All-Star Game, so I’m not here to tell you about the game itself. I’m here to talk to you about the experience of being at this game. So, after we ate, we headed to our seats to watch player introductions and the National Anthem. I took a panorama of the stadium right before the anthem began, and I was pretty pleased with how it turned out.
The game itself was a lot of fun, though, as I said earlier, it had a weird vibe to it because I really did not care who won. At all. Anyway, I probably made too many jokes on Twitter about the game being the Home Run Derby part 2, but who could blame me? Ten home runs were hit in this All-Star Game, breaking the old All-Star Game record of six. It was awesome, though, seeing Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, Jean Segura, Alex Bregman, George Springer, Willson Contreras, Trevor Story, Christian Yelich, Scooter Gennett and Joey Votto all hit homers in the SAME GAME.
When Segura hit his home run in the top of the eighth inning to give the American League a 5-2 lead, the man sitting in front of me exploded in emotion. And, no, he wasn’t just an AL fan, nor was he just a Mariners fan, either. This guy was wearing a Jean Segura jersey (yes, I’m serious), and it turned out that he received an e-mail from the Mariners stating that he was among the Top 20 voters worldwide for Segura in the Final Vote. The guy in front of me was pretty much singlehandedly responsible for sending Segura to the All-Star Game, and at the time, we all thought that he was going to win the MVP award. (This was before the crazy scoring seesaw at the end of the game, which included 11 runs from the seventh inning on.) You can’t make this stuff up.
The guy in front of me is wearing a Jean Segura jersey. What are the odds? pic.twitter.com/YWnQSVSUNQ— Devan Fink (@DevanFink) July 18, 2018
But, when J.A. Happ recorded the final out of the 2018 MLB All-Star Game at around midnight Eastern Time, it was apparent that we had witnessed one of the best All-Star Games in recent memory. (Except for the 1.5 innings that we weren’t witnessing the game while we were getting ice cream. It really should have taken less time.) The whole experience was incredible, and it is something that I will never forget.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.