Don't Kill the Mellinger

Columnist Sam Mellinger's thoughts on sports and other important stuff

Mariano Rivera was the All-Star game’s star; three Royals were right there beside him

07/17/2013 11:18 AM

07/17/2013 11:19 AM

Alex Gordon stood wearing only a towel when his teammate and friend Sal Perez caught his eye. This is in the clubhouse at Citi Field, just after Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, and reporters stood around Perez asking him mostly questions about catching Mariano Rivera’s last All-Star game.

Perez had told them it was “unbelievable,” and “awesome,” a “dream come true.” The day before, he had been giddy at the mere thought of being part of that moment — the greatest closer of all-time, perhaps the most respected player of his generation, pitching one final All-Star Game in New York before retiring.

But Perez didn’t want to be rude to his teammate. So he called his name, said,

Alex, come on in!

Alex smiled, leaned against a wall.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I’ll wait.”

They all understood the moment. This was the first All-Star Game for each of the Royals’ three representatives. They would’ve remembered this forever, anyway, even if they hadn’t each been so close to an all-time baseball moment.

Alex Gordon caught Rivera’s second out. It was a line drive, hit right at him, the kind that are always difficult for outfielders to judge. Gordon took a step in, then back, never thinking he wouldn’t make the catch but later saying: “I was going to dive, do anything I could to catch that ball.”

Greg Holland shared a bullpen with Rivera. When Holland was left off the original team — he was added as a replacement on Sunday — he told his brother the biggest reason he was disappointed was missing out on the chance to share the game with Rivera. Holland called it a once in a lifetime experience to sit with Rivera in the bullpen. He asked Rivera a few questions. Could’ve asked a million more. Didn’t want to be intrusive. Came away with a night he’ll never forget.

Perez was the closest. He was Mariano’s catcher, and for a brief moment after the legendary pitcher had waved back to the standing ovation, Mariano and Perez were the only men on the field. When it was over — a perfect inning, of course —

they had another moment together, just them.


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