Tigers All-Star calls for win to honor Mariano's last appearance
NEW YORK -- When Detroit Tigers veteran outfielder Torii Hunter addressed the American League squad before Tuesday night's Midsummer Classic at Citi Field, he urged his fellow All-Stars to get the victory for Mariano Rivera, the retiring Yankees closer making his final appearance in baseball's showcase.
Not only did the American League defeat the National League, 3-0, but Rivera earned Most Valuable Player honors with a perfect eighth inning.
"That was the plan," Hunter said. "We had a meeting earlier before the game. We went out there and tried to give it our all for him. Those guys on the National League side over there have a lot of good pitching, and we got three runs off some good pitchers over there. Mariano came in, man, it was a great moment. He's one of the great pitchers to ever play this game and I'm honored to play behind him in center field. It was a great night."
AL manager Jim Leyland knew Hunter was the right man to make the traditional pregame address.
"I think it would be more attractive for the fans, maybe to see what a player has to say rather than an old manager saying this game means something," Leyland said. "I think it's good. Torii can express himself however he wants, and that's what I want him to do. I just felt I think he's the elder statesmen, a 17-year veteran, maybe just [talking about] what it means to him and what we're trying to accomplish here."
Before the AL took the field for batting practice Tuesday, Hunter talked about the memorable pregame speeches that Ichiro Suzuki used to make at All-Star Games.
"Ichiro was funny, man," Hunter said. "Every year he gave a little speech. It was pretty weird, can't give you everything. It'll be weird without him up here, but somebody's going to have to step up and take that role, and I'm pretty sure it's going to be a guy that's going to make All-Stars for the next 10 years. We'll see."
Hunter's speech had a different tone. He said there was a little bit of football halftime speech in it, but there was also the insight of a 17-year veteran making quite possibly his last All-Star appearance.
Hunter made his fifth All-Star appearance, and his first since 2010. His fellow Major League players voted him onto the team as a reserve, a sign of how much respect he has around the game.
"Just tried to pump the guys up and let them know some of you guys might not ever make it back here, others are going to be here numerous times," Hunter said. "Savor the moment and have fun with it and just telling them to soak it in. Then a little speech saying, 'Let's go out and eat and have fun.'"
After that, he turned it over to Rivera.
"It was cool, both [Rivera] and Torii," Prince Fielder said. "These guys are veterans, so they know how to pump you up. It was very nice."
Leyland has insisted over the years that he is never a rah-rah manager. While players did that job, Leyland said he simply asked his players to compete.
"I can't tell you how emotional it was in the clubhouse before the game," Leyland said. "That was very touching."