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.