Allow me to start this article by listing the things I didn't like about the past week, which I spent in Kansas City covering the All-Star Game and the festivities surrounding it.
In all honesty, I loved every moment of it. Well, except for being on the field with Breaking Barriers essay contest winner Raeya Ponugoti and seeing her rack up autographs while I, a media member with the words "No Autographs" featured prominently on my credential, could only watch.
But even that was a learning experience. After all, I've come to learn that getting to meet a person and talk to them far surpasses some scribbles on a baseball on the (unofficial) Coolness Meter.
By the way, meeting people was something I did quite a bit of this week. The hand-shaking craze started on Sunday, when my editor was gracious enough to invite me to a meeting attended by all of my coworkers on All-Star detail, only a few of which I'd met previously. As excited as I was to rub shoulders with the players, it was equally amazing to get to meet my partners in crime!
I had the pleasure of covering the Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game, and, of course, that led to meeting even more (famous) people. I was able to interview Paul DiMeo (who used to be a designer on the now-canceled "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and who also designed the MLB Fan Cave), Jon Hamm of "Mad Men," and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel.
On Monday, I got to shadow Commissioner Bud Selig for several hours before watching the State Farm Home Run Derby with my family. Just as I suspected, both were spectacular; the only complaint I have is that Jose Bautista, whom I was assigned in the family bet, didn't win!
Tuesday was, of course, the All-Star Game. I couldn't believe that this whirlwind of a week was coming to an end -- but it wasn't over yet. I made a trip to the All-Star Red Carpet Show presented by Chevrolet, and before they got into their trucks, I was able to grab "Big Papi" (David Ortiz) and Joe Mauer and ask each of them a couple of questions.
Then it was off to Kauffman Stadium: I camped out on the fieldin order to catch players as they left the field after batting practice. This turned out to be my most successful endeavor of the week (despite the heat)! I talked to Curtis Granderson, Ian Kinsler, Mike Trout, Carlos Beltrán and Joey Votto.
I met Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson and head of the Breaking Barriers essay contest, and 2012 winner Ponugoti in their Diamond Club seats. I was content to stay there and enjoy the excellent view, and chat with Robinson's friends, the daughters of the legendary Satchel Paige. But there was another opportunity awaiting me, one far more important than any seat in the ballpark.
That was a visit to Selig's suite, where I had the distinct honor of "passing the torch" by introducing Raeya to Selig. Presenting my newfound friend to Selig, I assured him that Raeya was an extremely worthy successor -- in fact, her essay was even better than mine had been!
As flashbulbs went off, capturing a beaming Selig pulling the slightly timid Raeya in close for a hug, I stepped back, swelling with pride for Raeya. She was certainly a deserving winner.
As Selig called me over for a picture, I marveled at the past year. Stealing a glance at Raeya, on the other side of Selig, it all made perfect sense. I knew that, without a doubt, Raeya wouldn't forget this day as long as she lived. And in that very instant, I knew that I wouldn't, either.
When it comes to describing this past week, Giants catcher and All-Star Buster Posey may have said it best: "As much as anything I'm taking away from this experience, it's just how much a celebration of the game the All-Star Game is. Not just this game, but the entirety of baseball."
Megan Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest who earned the job of youth correspondent in 2011, is a reporter for MLB.com.