Jim Leyland sets up magical night for Rivera

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
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NEW YORK - It was a moment only baseball could pull off.

MLB always has a way of sending off its great players in grand style.

It happened again on Tuesday night for retiring future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera.

With the 84th annual All-Star Game at Citi Field the backdrop, Tigers manager Jim Leyland was the mastermind of something never seen before in baseball.

Rivera came into the game in the bottom of the eighth inning to pitch in what would eventually be a 3-0 American League victory over the National League.

When Rivera took the mound, there was no one else out on the field. He stood there in his lonesome.

All the players from both squads stood and cheered along with the sellout crowd.

All cheered Rivera, the game's all-time save leader. He is arguably the greatest closer of all-time.

"It was all orchestrated," Leyland said with a huge smile on his face in his office after the game.

Indeed, it was a goose bump moment, one many in the building or at home won't forget anytime some. "Wow," Tigers' All-Star Torii Hunter said. "I will never forget that."

 In his final All-Star appearance, Rivera pitched an scoreless inning and was named MVP.

And while it was the ushering out of an all-time great, the future was truly on display.

There were a ton of first timers, 39. It's the most ever. In National League, there were 21. The American League had 18.

None bigger and brighter, however, than NL starting pitcher Matt Harvey.

Harvey, the New York Mets' rookie starter, got the honor of starting the All-Star Game in his home ballpark.

And Harvey, who was 7-2 with a 2.35 ERA in the first half of the season, didn't disappoint after a shaky start.

On the first pitch he threw, L.A. Angels' center fielder drilled a double inside the first base bag for a double.

Harvey then hit New York Yankees' second baseman Robinson Cano on the right knee.

It looked as the hard-throwing, right-hander was in for a short night on a big stage.

But just as Harvey has done all year, he buckled down and showed why he was chosen as an All-Star.

First, Harvey fanned Miguel Cabrera, currently the best player on the planet. Miggy has feasted with runners in scoring position with 95 first-half RBI.

"I knew that I had to make good pitches," Harvey said about pitching to Cabrera. "And obviously, throwing to the best catcher in the game, you know, it makes it a lot easier just to trust him and go with what he calls.

"So you know, luckily it was in favor of me and Yadi Molina and I was able to get him out."

Harvey then had to face Baltimore Orioles' slugger Chris Davis, who pounded an MLB-leading 37 homers in the first-half.

Harvey got Davis to fly out to center for the second out.

Harvey complete the Houdini act by striking out the Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista to end the AL threat.

Harvey walked off the mound to loud cheers, the Met fans-heavy crowd was happy to see their man come through.

But this All-Star Games wasn't all about Harvey. There were young stars everywhere that make fans all over Baseball America hopeful that their team will be able to compete on that championship level in seasons to come.

In fact, it's the first time four players 21 or younger were selected to the All-Star team.

The Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper (20), the Miami Marlins' Jose Fernandez (20), the Angels' Trout (21) and the Baltimore Orioles Manny Machado (21).

"We have a lot of young guys, this game is changing," said  Hunter, who was selected by fellow players as an All-Star. "There's a new level.

"There are a lot of good athletes. That why you see them coming to the big leagues at 19, 20 and 21. This new level of players is awesome. Baseball is in good shape with them."

It's just a good time to be a baseball fan. The talent is young and spread around.

There's a changing of the guard. The new is coming in, replacing familiar faces we have grown to love.

We saw a great one go out. But there are many new ones to take Rivera's place.

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