NEW YORK — Jim Leyland made a promise that baseball fans would see Mariano Rivera no matter what during Tuesday night's All-Star game at Citi Field.
What the American League manager didn't tell us was that Rivera would be summoned from the bullpen in such memorable fashion during the AL's 3-0 victory over the National League. The New York Yankees closer ran onto an empty field to the familiar strains of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" after being called upon to pitch the eighth inning of the game. That approach allowed Rivera, who plans to retire at the end of the season, to bask in the spotlight himself before teammates took the field.
It also made for the signature moment of the 2013 Midsummer Classic, which had been largely non-descript until the entrance. After reaching the mound, Rivera doffed and waved his cap in an appreciative gesture to the roaring crowd of 45,186. Fellow All-Stars joined the ovation by crowding the railings of both dugouts and even hopped the barrier to get a better look at the greatest closer in the history of the game.
Rivera then gave his fans and teammates what they came to see, retiring Jean Segura, Allen Craig and Carlos Gomez in order to preserve the AL's three-run lead. He threw a total of 16 pitches, 11 of them for strikes and was named the All-Star MVP after the game.
"It's been a privilege," he told the fans that remained in the stands.
After he was finished pitching in the eighth, Rivera was greeted and congratulated by Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez. First baseman Prince Fielder presented him with the ball he had used and then fellow pitcher Justin Verlander approached him for a hug.
Some might wonder why Leyland elected for Rivera in the eighth instead of his trademark ninth, but the explanation seems pretty simple. Erring on the side of caution, Leyland avoided the chance that another pitcher or pitchers would give up four runs in the bottom of the eighth, erasing any opportunity to see Rivera one final time. That might draw him some criticism, sure, but it pales in comparison to what he would've faced had Rivera never had the chance to run out of that bullpen at all.