For the first time in a long time, Kansas City was the focus of the sports world while hosting the 2012 MLB All-Star Game. All the stars came out, the stadium looked gorgeous, heck, the weather even cooperated.
The National League used two big innings to roll over the AL 8-0, including a five run first inning off of Verlander that included a bases loaded triple by Pablo Sandoval. Harrison started the fourth inning and got two quick outs, but Rafael Furcal hit a soft liner down the right field line that Jose Bautista wasn’t positioned well enough to get to quickly enough and a Matt Holliday single brought in another run. Then Melky Cabrera put a ball into the left field bullpen (for old time’s sake) and made it 8-0.
The AL had some opportunities. In the bottom of the fifth, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli had consecutive one-out singles and Asdrubal walked to load the bases after a ground out by Curtis Granderson, but Ian Kinsler flew out to left field.
The next inning, Mike Trout singled to lead off against R.A. Dickey and promptly stole second base. Mark Trumbo struck out but Paul Konerko was hit by a pitch to put two on for Miguel Cabrera with Billy Butler stepping into the on deck circle. Cabrera grounded into a double play to end the rally, though and the AL left more runners on.
The AL never threatened again.
Melky Cabrera won the MVP by going 2-3 with two runs scored and two driven in and the game’s only homer. Of course, this was his first game in Kauffman Stadium since being traded away to the Giants last winter. It stings just a bit to see him win the MVP Award, but fans were generally appreciative of his All-Star season to this point.
Billy Butler got the loudest support as Kansas City’s only All-Star player in the game. Royals fans really embraced him, giving a loud ovation and the look on his face was one of appreciation and humility. Chipper Jones, in his only appearance in Kansas City and last All-Star Game, didn’t even get as loud a response from the crowd.
Butler has always been a reluctant vocal leader despite being the most productive hitter on the team over the last few years. When Robinson Cano stepped to the plate, he was met with some leftover boos from Monday’s Home Run Derby, but also with chants of “Bil-ly But-ler”. Butler’s first steps into the on deck circle in the sixth met with an eruption of cheers.
Fans lived and died with each pitch, and in both of his at bats, Butler got to two strikes and fouled a pitch off. The relief felt by the crowd was palpable. Those kind of moments of fandom don’t come along often.
As a game, it really wasn’t much of a contest. Even though MLB says “it counts”, the game is still an exhibition and you’re still looking for moments. Maybe tonight won’t be like Bo Jackson‘s homer in Anaheim or Cal Ripken‘s homer in his last All-Star Game, but for Kansas City, the thought of about 40,000 people rising together to cheer Billy Butler will be a memorable moment.