Colon, Rivera, Hunter and other old-timers find room in young man's All-Star game

  • Article by: BEN WALKER , AP Baseball Writer
  • Updated: July 16, 2013 - 2:55 AM

NEW YORK — Bartolo Colon can laugh now, recalling his first All-Star experience.

Right after unleashing a 100 mph fastball to Mark McGwire, the Cleveland flame-thrower got his comeuppance: Barry Bonds tagged him for a home run estimated at 451 feet, a real crowd pleaser at Coors Field.

"It hit a sign with a San Francisco logo. It was funny," Colon said Monday through a translator.

That was 1998, during his first full season when he was part of baseball's new breed. Now, at 40, the Oakland pitcher is older than some players who take part in Old-Timers' events.

Yet even though Tuesday night's All-Star game is for the young, there's still a place at Citi Field for the guys sporting a bit of gray.

Mariano Rivera remains major league royalty, sought out by teammates and opponents alike this week to pose for a picture or provide a word of wisdom before he retires at age 43.

"Definitely, it's special, but I'm treating it like the other ones," the New York Yankees closer said. "The only difference is next year I won't be here."

Which is why A's closer Grant Balfour wanted to cling close to Rivera.

"Just to be here in his last All-Star game and be in the bullpen, I mean, I'm stoked," Balfour said. "It's my first one, and I think, 'What better timing than to have it when he's in his last one and be here in New York.'"

Boston designated hitter David Ortiz is starting at 37, St. Louis outfielder Carlos Beltran is in the lineup at 36. Detroit outfielder Torii Hunter turns 38 later this week.

Heck, Washington manager Davey Johnson is coaching on the NL side at 70.

Johnson gets a good look on a daily basis at one of the game's brightest young talents, 20-year-old Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper. From Mike Trout to Manny Machado to Jose Fernandez, baseball is filled with emerging stars.

Put it this way: Mets ace Matt Harvey, who will start the All-Star game in his own ballpark at 24, is only the 12th-youngest player selected for the event.

"I think there are more good, young athletes who are playing baseball," Johnson said. "I think it's good for baseball to see all this good, young, healthy talent coming up. You can see it on every ballclub."

Johnson played at a time when many of baseball's greats were winding down. Baltimore teammate Brooks Robinson and fellow future Hall of Famers such as Hank Aaron, Harmon Killebrew and Al Kaline were closing out their careers.

That said, Johnson sees a spot for players slightly beyond rookie status.

"It's good to have veteran leadership, to be able to show the younger players how to do it on and off the field, especially on the road," he said. "But that leadership means a player still has to be producing."

For some former All-Star perennials — Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez — it remains to be seen whether they can make a contribution in the majors in the second half.

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