NEW YORK — When it was over, when all that was left in Bryce Harper’s whirlwind 48-hours at the 2013 All-Star game was one more chat with reporters, he stood in a hallway in the bowels of Citi Field and talked about what a “blast” he’d had.
While he spoke, the large arm of Red Sox slugger David Ortiz reached out to him over the crowd of media for a fist-bump. Harper smiled.
“Hey kid,” Ortiz said. “Keep doin’ your thing.”
Harper smiled again.
The Washington Nationals outfielder was 0-for-2 in his second All-Star Game, which the American League won 3-0 and secured home field advantage in the World Series on a night that belonged to Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.
Harper hit a hard line drive out to Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera off a fastball from tough White Sox lefty Chris Sale in his first at-bat, and popped out to Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy off A’s closer Grant Balfour in his second.
He played six innings in the field, the first four of them in center field and the last two in right after Andrew McCutchen pinch ran for Carlos Beltran in the bottom of the fourth. He saw plenty of action, recording four put-outs.
“Being able to play with the best players in baseball is always a blast,” Harper said. “I’m looking forward to a couple more All-Star Games.”
In the dugout, he had two familiar faces who were also savoring the experience.
Manager Davey Johnson milled about, talking with players, applauding after one of his favorites, Neil Diamond, sang Sweet Caroline on the field, and mostly just trying to stay out of the way. Harper ran by and jokingly pointed out his position in center to his manager.
“Maybe I planted it in his head a little bit,” he quipped. “No, just kidding. (Denard Span’s) a great center fielder.”
Meanwhile, Jordan Zimmermann hung on the dugout railing for most of the night, chatting with the other National League pitchers — those whose work for the day was already done, along with those who, like him, couldn’t pitch in it. When Harper was out of the game, the two sat together, flanked by Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Zimmermann said, singling out Madison Bumgarner and Adam Wainwright as two of the pitchers he enjoyed talking with.
“I’m happy I came. I wish I could’ve pitched. It’s indescribable. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Hopefully I can get back here.”
For Zimmermann, being introduced on the field was really his only action.
The right-hander expects he’ll be fine to make his next scheduled start on Sunday, and he didn’t feel he’d taken any steps backward with the lingering neck issue that kept him from participating in the game. Still, the introduction was nice.
“That was a special moment for me,” Zimmermann said.
It was pointed out then to the usually-stoic right-hander that he even cracked a smile when he was announced and shown on the Citi Field scoreboard.
“Well yeah,” Zimmermann deadpanned, smiling again. “I was happy.”
The highlight of the night for most came in the bottom of the eighth inning, when Rivera jogged in from the bullpen with the strains of his signature “Enter Sandman” blasting over the public address system.
Not one other player stepped on the field as the crowd and both dugouts gave a standing ovation to the Yankees’ soon-to-be-retired closer. He doffed his cap, a man alone on the mound, and soaked it in.
He pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning, used then so that American League manager Jim Leyland would ensure he pitched, and, of course, all 16 of his pitches were cutters.
“It was amazing,” Rivera said. “It almost made me cry. I was close. It was amazing. A scene that I will never forget.”