It has been a week now since my Dad and I took in the midsummer classic in Phoenix and I'm still buzzing from it. What a great time! The game was a very special event that generated an energy in me I'm finding too difficult to describe. I loved seeing all of the best players (in theory anyway) and being there with the guy that taught me about the game. But for all of the excitement and wonder that I experienced, as I look back there is something else that I need to say.
For many years now there has been talk of the game of baseball and the waning of its popularity. In Phoenix that was difficult to detect; baseball appeared alive and well. For good reason too. The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is one of the best sporting events there is. Unfortunately that appearance of vitality was soon tainted. Where was Derek Jeter?
The tradition of the All-Star game in baseball is rich and seminal. Other sports attempt to emulate baseball's invention, but fail to capture its spirit. There are several reasons for this, but none more prominent than the fact that baseball, at its core, is a game of individual contests. Sure each player is on a team and teammates help each other win. But the essential ingredient in baseball is the contest between pitcher and hitter. The All-Star game showcases the pinnacle of these contests: the best hitters against the best pitchers. It's a lineup of individual greatness taking on individual greatness for three straight hours. Speaking strictly as a fan of the game I can't think of anything much better than watching these greats compete against each other (Carl Hubbell vs. Babe Ruth, Warren Spahn vs. Ted Williams, Roy Halladay vs. Derek Jeter?).
Wait, no Derek Jeter this year. I know A LOT has been written about this and it is old news now, but I wanted to add my two cents. I love the game of baseball and enjoy people that play it well. I respect Derek Jeter for all that he has accomplished and think he has been very good for the game. I like the game so much that I traveled over 1,000 miles to celebrate its top acheivers. Bodaciously, my father joined me in the celebration from over 1,000 miles away in another direction. There were many things about the game that we were looking forward to. But as the date approached we kept talking about one thing: will Jeter have 3,000 in time for Phoenix? I was so excited to have an opportunity to see and honor a 3,000 hit man on the stage built for the greatest active players, that I actually watched Yankees' games. Then he got it, and in such dramatic fashion that I was swept away and became a Derek Jeter fan.
But that didn't last very long. Derek Jeter, a man who makes millions upon millions of dollars playing the game of baseball, an enterprise supported solely by the appreciation of its fans, did not show at the one event intended to celebrate those very fans and the reverie they have for their favorite players. I've never had any sympathy for a baseball player that doesn't come to the All-Star game. Especially ones that were voted in by the fans. Especially ones that were voted in by the fans and just got their 3,000th hit. Especailly ones that were voted in by the fans, just got their 3,000th hit, and don't have the on-field performance to warrant a position in the lineup (but have been voted in all the same because the fans want to SEE you).
Come on Derek, it's the All-Star game. It is one of those special things about baseball that sets it apart from the other sports. How is baseball supposed to retain its spot as the national pastime if one of its greatest ambassadors won't even show up?