All-Star Takeaway: MLB is alive, internationally supreme, and going to get better

All-Star Takeaway: MLB is alive, internationally supreme, and going to get better

Lots of good signs for the future of a beleaguered league

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. belts one at a very exciting All-Star Game.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. belts one at a very exciting All-Star Game.
Photo: Getty Images

DENVER — It would be nearly impossible for any fan to have left the MLB All-Star Game here at Coors Field on Tuesday night without feeling good about the game.

Maybe it was the pandemic, now in America’s rear view. Maybe, it was a chance to be in a big crowd again. Either way, damn it felt good to be at the ballpark once more, watching the national pastime.

Just like at the Home Run Derby, the stadium was abuzz, live. You could tell fans relished the chance to take in the Midsummer Classic.

Remember, last year’s event was canceled because of COVID-19.

It felt like fans were making up for that party that was lost. Fans watching at home could hear it, feel it through their TVs. Social media was engaged and took notice, too.

Fans were packed in, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. The crowd didn’t flee to beat the traffic, either. They stayed until the final out of the American League’s 5-2 victory.

It was not one of those contests where every run came via the long ball. There were manufactured runs, baserunners, some action. Only two of the seven runs scored were from home runs, both solo shots.

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International Flavor

International Flavor

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Photo: Getty Images

One thing that was hard not to notice was MLB’s international favor on display. The game is truly global and better yet, anyone one can play — no matter their size, ethnic background, or the language they speak.

The winning pitcher was Shohei Ohtani, from Japan. The save went to Liam Hendriks, from Australia. And the MVP, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., is Dominican.

And the featured matchup pitted Ohtani on the mound against Fernando Tatís Jr. at the plate in the bottom of the first inning. Tatís would fly out.

Ohtani pitched one scoreless inning — with one pitch that rung up at 100 mph. At the plate, where he served as the AL’s DH, Ohtani went 0-for-2.

Guerrero — who went 1-for-3 with two RBI — was named All-Star Game MVP after he blasted a monster 468-foot homer in the third inning for the AL, which won for the eighth straight time.

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Rule Changes

Rule Changes

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Fans also had to be geeked by hearing MLB commissioner Rob Manfred talk about some rule changes coming to the game. Baseball has already responded to Goo Gate — enforcing rules that stop pitchers from using foreign substances on the ball. It has helped hitters already. The game has been taken over by pen-protector geeks with all these analytics. The game had turned in either a strikeout or a home run. That’s hardly baseball. There are way more exciting plays on the field than just leaving the yard.

The Commish said MLB will likely drop seven-inning doubleheaders and the extra-innings runner rule in 2022. Plus, the defensive shifts may be headed out, too. Those have taken away a lot of hits and kept action off the base paths.

These are all good moves for the sport. It has to get back to the game’s roots.

We’ve seen the NBA altered in a bad way with all the three-pointers. And the NFL has become nothing more than a pass-happy league. Running backs just aren’t as prominent anymore.

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Commitment to Black Participation

Commitment to Black Participation

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MLB also made a historic and significant financial commitment of up to $150 million to The Players Alliance.

The funding, spread out over a 10-year period, will go toward a number of programs built around participation in baseball, mentorship and professional baseball employee development.

In addition, some of the funding will include initiatives that celebrate Black baseball history and culture, educational grants and service opportunities to communities.

This is a giant step for the sport.

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The Food

The Food

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And perhaps the best thing to come out of the return to baseball on the grand stage, was the ballpark food.

As a scribe who has covered MLB since 1986, countless All-Star Games and postseasons, there’s nothing like a hotdog at the ballpark.

Man, Coors Field didn’t disappoint. I had an all-beef footlong with mustard and sauerkraut. It was heaven. It was baseball. All was right with the world again.

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