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Baseball

Daniel Dunaief

When I was younger, I was the best baseball player who ever lived. OK, maybe that’s a wee bit of an exaggeration. Maybe I was a decent player who had a few good games, surrounded by periods of agonizing ineffectiveness, miserable failure and frustrating inadequacies.

Baseball, as its numerous fans will suggest regularly, is a game of failure. And yet those exquisite moments of success — when we break up a no-hitter, get to a ball that seemed destined for open grass or develop the speed to outrun the laser throw from the outfield — make us feel as if we can do anything.

Recently, I have found myself frustrated beyond the normal measure of perspective because I feel as if I’ve lost a step or six when I play softball. My current athletic deficiencies seem to be a harsh reminder of the inexorable journey through time.

As I return from the game in the car, I sometimes bark questions at myself, wondering how I missed an easy pop-up, or how I lunged for yet another pitch I should have hit. My family, who comes to the games to support me, watches me dissolve into a puddle of self-loathing.

Yes, I know, it’s not my finest hours as a parent and I know I’m setting a terrible example. And yet something inside of me, which is both young and old, can’t control the frustration. I’m an older version of the kid who was so annoyed with his own deficiencies that he kicked a basketball over some trees. OK, maybe they were hedges and I probably threw the ball, but in my memory the offending orb traveled a great distance.

So, what was and sometimes is missing from my life that caused these games to be so important? Other than talent, conditioning, plenty of sleep and a commitment to practicing, my biggest problem was, and sometimes still is, a lack of perspective.

People suffer through much greater hardships than a decline in limited athletic skills. Life is filled with challenges and inspiration. People overcome insurmountable odds, push themselves far beyond any expectations by taking small steps for mankind or even small steps for themselves when they weren’t expected to walk at all.

As I know, I am fortunate in many ways to have the opportunity and time to play softball at all. To be sure, I recognize that perspective isn’t what people generally need when they care about something large or small: They need focus. Artists spending countless hours painting, writing, revising, editing or reshooting a scene for a movie to enable the reality of their art to catch up to their vision or imagination often lose themselves in their efforts, forgetting to eat, to call their parents or siblings, to sleep or to take care of other basic needs.

Considerable perspective could prevent them from finding another gear or producing their best work.

And yet perspective, particularly in a moment like a softball game, can soothe the escalated competitor and give the father driving a car with his supportive family a chance to appreciate the people around him and laugh about his inadequacies, rather than dwell on them.

In a movie, perspective often comes from a camera that climbs high into the sky or from someone looking through a window at his children playing in a yard or at a picture of his family in a rickety rowboat. Perhaps if we find ourselves tumbling down the staircase of anger, frustration or resentment, we can imagine handrails we can grab that allow us to appreciate what we have and that offer another way of reacting to life.

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Eddie Amodeo holding the image of Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio. Photo from Eddie Amodeo

For Eddie Amodeo, a disabled Vietnam veteran, an ordinary trip to a local garage sale in 2007 led to an unexpected journey that would last more than a decade. 

The Calverton resident and active participant in the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 said he remembers while looking through the variety of items on sale, something struck his eye. 

When he took a closer look, he noticed a poster. On it was a drawing that depicted a scene of the USS Yankee Clipper and the USS Cleveland submarine. Amodeo also noticed that there was an image of Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio immortalized in the sky. 

Intrigued by the poster, Amodeo bought it for $2 and while talking to the lady who ran the yard sale, she disclosed more information about the poster 

“She told me it was originally her grandfather’s and she had found it after he had passed away,” Amodeo said. 

Still curious about the origins of the piece, he began doing research to see if he could find out more information but hit a dead end. 

Amodeo, a lifelong Yankees fan, was able to connect with a team merchandising official, who then connected him with DiMaggio’s grandchildren. 

He learned that the poster was drawn by Burris Jenkins as an homage to the day DiMaggio’s famed 56-game hitting streak ended. The drawing depicts a sea battle with DiMaggio batting in the clouds with text reading ‘the 57th Game! 

The two grandchildren then referred Amodeo to Morris Engelberg, Joe DiMaggio’s estate lawyer. 

The Calverton resident also contacted the Baseball Hall of Fame to see if they were interested in the piece. He first provided the museum with a picture of the poster, but they requested to see the original. Amodeo took the poster to Cooperstown for a museum curator to personally examine it and then it was brought in front of the museum’s board. 

Amodeo said he talked to Engelberg a few times about a licensing agreement tied to the poster. After negotiating with the estate lawyer, they eventually came to a mutual agreement on a licensing agreement. 

“There was a lot of back and forth between us,” the Calverton resident said. “But I was able to get the blessing from the estate.”

Amodeo hoped to auction the prints to charities helping disabled veterans and children suffering from cancer as well as seeing if the Yankees and Indians wanted to sell his prints at their store, though he hit a roadblock. 

Despite getting a licensing agreement from the DiMaggio estate, Amodeo would need a separate agreement from Major League Baseball for him to be able to sell and auction the poster. 

“You can get an agreement from MLB, but you have to pay,” he said. 

Amodeo has been persistent but says it is tough to get those doors open as he works
by himself. 

“I haven’t really made progress unfortunately.” he said. “I’m trying to get a hold of someone in the Yankees organization and see where I can go with this.”

The Vietnam veteran added he didn’t have the money to go to a lawyer when he was initially  going through the process. 

Despite his struggles, after more than a decade, the poster is now on display in Cooperstown.  

Amodeo said he made the trip up when the American Legion had its 100th anniversary this year, but was disappointed to see the piece wasn’t on display. 

“They told me that the poster is so fragile that is displayed in cycles,” he said. “I hope to see it in person one day.”

Amodeo said he is fortunate he found the poster all those years ago. 

“It is something I’m proud of,” he said. “It is something that is in the history books.”

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It was a must-win game for the Eagles of Rocky Point to even the series and force a game three during the June 3 Class A finals, but the Sayville bats picked up the pace in the fifth and sixth innings to de-throne the defending Suffolk Class A baseball champions, putting the game away 8-3.

The Eagles, who defeated Shoreham-Wading River a year ago to capture their first county title in their program history, concluded their season 15-4 in their division. The Eagles will have their work cut out for them next season as they’ll lose nine players of their 15-man roster to graduation.

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Rocky Point freshman Sean Hamilton throws heat from the rubber against visiting Sayville May 2. Photo by Bill Landon

Miller brothers’ bats did the talking

Rocky Point’s baseball team took care of business against Sayville with a 5-2 victory at home May 2. With both teams at 6-2, the Eagles bettered Sayville two games to one in a three-game series to take over sole possession atop the league VI leaderboard.

Trailing by one, Sayville threatened in the top of the fifth, loading the bases when Rocky Point senior Michael Gunning took over at the mound. Gunning got the first out and then relied on his teammates behind him who turned a double play stranding all three Sayville runners to escape the inning. Rocky Point senior Trey Miller hit a two-run single in the bottom of the first to take the early lead and freshman Cody Miller, Trey’s younger brother, returned the favor in the bottom of the sixth to extend the Eagles lead.

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The Ward Melville baseball team let its bats do the talking in a League I matchup against the Central Islip Musketeers where the Patriots cruised to a 12-2 victory April 15.

The Patriots scored two runs in the opening inning, four in the second and two more in the third before plating four more in the fourth to put the game away.

Third baseman Brady Doran was 2-2 at the plate with a pair of doubles and scored three times. Second baseman Matt Maurer was 2-4 and batted in four. Pitcher Chris Vivenzio got the win fanning 10 batters, allowing one hit.

The win, the first of a three-game series against the Musketeers, put the Patriots as of April 15 at 3-1 in the division and 5-1 overall for second place behind Patchogue-Medford. On April 16 the Patriots won 11-0 against Central Islip.

A photo of Jacob Donaldson from his baseball days. Photo from Victoria Espinoza

By Victoria Espinoza

Jacob Donaldson died this past weekend, leaving an incredibly rich legacy filled with public service and family memories. 

A Huntington Station resident, Donaldson, 90, served as a staff sergeant in the Army during the Korean War, and later as a fireman for the New York City Fire Department. He left his mark in other significant areas as well, including on the baseball diamond, getting signed by the Boston Red Sox organization straight out of high school at age 16 and raising nine children in Huntington with his wife Grace.

Known by most as Jake, Donaldson was born Monday, October 1, 1928 on a crisp, fall Brooklyn day. His parents, George and Helen, raised him and his younger brother George in the borough until Donaldson turned 16 and left Newtown High School in his hometown and was signed as an outfielder to the Milford Red Sox, a Boston Red Sox minor league affiliate which played in Delaware. 

In Donaldson’s first season in 1946 he hit .316 with 14 home runs in 116 games. For the next seven years he played for six other minor league teams, including several seasons with the Albany Senators. During his time on the ball field Donaldson rubbed shoulders with many prolific baseball players, including one hall of famer. 

Left fielder and Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame inductee Ted Williams had to borrow Donaldson’s glove once, after someone broke into the locker room and stole Williams’. Donaldson faced off against pitcher Don Newcombe when he was still in the minor leagues. 

After Newcombe struck Donaldson with one of his pitches, Donaldson told him to meet in the tunnel after the game. When they did, Newcombe said the only reason he hit him was because he was unable to get him out and asked to take the outfielder out for a beer, according to Donaldson.

While Donaldson was excelling on the baseball diamond, he could have fielded his own team at home. He and Grace first welcomed son Jim in 1954, followed by Bob, Kathy, Terry, Patty, Mary, Eileen, John and Joe completing the family of 11 in 1967. The family lived in Huntington Station where the children attended school in both the South Huntington district and Holy Family. 

Donaldson’s baseball career was interrupted after playing 113 games in 1950. He was drafted into the Army during the Korean War, departing in October 1950. He eventually rose to the rank of staff sergeant.

In 1955, the father of nine joined the FDNY as a firefighter. He worked as a motor pump operator and chief’s driver in his nearly 30-year career with the department, mostly working at Engine 3 in Chelsea. He was recognized for his bravery on multiple occasions by the fire department and once appeared on the cover of the New York Daily News on Nov. 23, 1961 following an incident in which a five-alarm blaze did damage to a building in Times Square. On the cover, he is pictured emerging from the building after battling a fire that claimed the lives of two fellow firefighters.

Even though his baseball career came to an end, Donaldson’s days on the field were not over. His daughter Terry said one of her favorite memories was attending an Albany Senators Old Timers Nostalgia reunion game at Hawkins Stadium in the summer of 1985. 

“It was so nice to see the old timers honored and it made my dad’s baseball days come to life for me!” she said. 

When his wife Grace suffered from a stroke in 1997, she was confined to a wheelchair and could no longer use one of her arms. Donaldson ensured his wife was taken care of and stayed right by her side until she died in 2017.

Donaldson was the proud grandfather to 11, and great grandfather to six. He loved spending time with his grandkids, whether it was sharing the sport he loved with them and teaching them how to throw a ball, or playing in the family’s beloved backyard and inground pool. Andrew Mayrick, one of Donaldson’s grandsons, said when he went to the local pub that his grandpa had frequented earlier this week, several people approached him to talk about how much they enjoyed getting to know his grandfather.

“There were a ton of people I had never met who were all upset, and the owner John said, ‘Jake was like a grandfather to everyone,’” Mayrick said. “He loved everyone he met and lived a life worth talking about, so much that strangers would just sit down and love listening to him.” 

Donaldson will be remembered by many as a larger than life personality, a friend to all who knew him, and someone who truly got the most out of life.

“Grandpa Jake had his own special language — a language of love reserved only for our family,” said granddaughter Mary Grace Donaldson. “He let us know ‘what a crew’ we were and had a number of other one-liners that will live on for years to come.”

Visitation will be held at M.A. Connell Funeral Home, 934 New York Ave., Huntington Station on Thursday, March 21 from 7 to 9 p.m. and Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral service will be held Friday evening at the funeral home. Interment will be at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.

We had such a wonderful relationship. I wondered whether this was it. Could this be the one that I remember years from now, that I think about when I’m feeling down, or that I go back to when I hear the phrase “the good old days”?

It was better than good for a while. You were incredible and so supremely satisfying. There was electricity, energy and a belief that this connection was something extraordinary. It gave me so much to look forward to, day in and day out, because I knew you’d be there for me.

I was dealing with a lot this summer. My family moved to North Carolina. I lost the close proximity to the friends, neighbors and nearby family I’d taken for granted for all these years.

It was harder to see you at first. But that didn’t stop the connection, from allowing me to enjoy the promising magic ride. Maybe modern technology minimized the distance, maybe it was just some perceived link, but I believed in you, in us, from so far away.

My wife has become accustomed to the annual search for this kind of closeness with you. She’s extraordinarily supportive of my emotional well-being. She knows that I need you, even if you don’t always seem to need me. She appreciates that I don’t need to try to defeat this kind of addiction.

She knows that I had a connection with you long before she came along and she doesn’t try to get in the way of that. She hasn’t tried to change me or turn my attention to other passions. She also knows that, when all is right between you and me, she and I have a better relationship because I’m a better-adjusted person who believes anything is possible.

It was such a whirlwind this time. Even when you seemed on the precipice of disappointing, you found a way to come through. You put a smile on my face as I went to bed, knowing that you’d done it again and that the sky really was the limit.

Of course, I recognized that it would never be so spectacular for all these months. I knew there’d be some nights when I might feel like pulling away, when I might think about dedicating my time, attention and passion elsewhere. I didn’t disconnect because I wanted it to work out. I pushed the warning signs away, even if I started to feel as if the separation and the potential through the middle of the summer fell short of my hopes.

Ultimately, as you know all too well, people remember the biggest moments. When these monumental days arrived, you seemed ready.

Initially, you didn’t disappoint. But, then, something happened. It was as if the nagging concerns I had through the summer came back to haunt us. You hadn’t changed at all: It’s just that I saw the weaknesses, the deficiencies and the problems that limited you.

You fought bravely to hold on, but it just wasn’t meant to be. The Red Sox and their fans, as it turns out, will continue to move forward, driven by the belief that those 108 wins will propel them all the way to the World Series.

For me, I can only look back and smile, wondering about what could have been after that spectacular start and hope that, maybe next year, the Yankees and their dedicated fans from near and far will bask in the progression from summer success to the fall classic.

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Smithtown resident Aiden Eddelson, 9, in the booth with SportsNet New York’s broadcasters during the bottom of the third inning. Photo from SportsNet New York

If you asked Smithtown fourth-grader Aidan Eddelson about the New York Mets, he could tell you the batting average of most players on the team. He could tell you where most pitchers like to pitch to outfielder Brandon Nimmo and can tell you which player thinks he’s the best dancer.

“[Shortstop Amed] Rosario’s from the Dominican Republic, he bats right, and he also thinks he’s the best dancer on the Mets,” Aidan said, speaking live from SportsNet New York broadcast booth Sept. 26.

The 9-year-old fan was given the opportunity to be the SportsNet New York’s kidcaster during the bottom of the 3rd inning of the Atlanta Braves versus New York Mets game Sept. 26. The SNY Kidcaster Contest asks young Mets fans to submit a video of them broadcasting a home run made by Nimmo in a previous Mets game. Only a few days after Aidan mailed his submission, he was asked to join the station’s veteran broadcasters Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling in their booth. The professionals said they were surprised how knowledgeable young Aidan was about the team.

“I did not know that,” Hernandez said, when he heard Aidan comment on Rosario’s dancing capability.

Aidan was paying attention to the players warming up for their turn at bat.

“Aidan’s been a fan since birth, whether he’s known it or not.”

— Roie Eddelson

“I actually saw him dancing over there before, and he was dancing when he was getting ready,” the young Mets fan said.

Aidan and his father, Brian, spent several hours in the days before the broadcast researching the team so they could be prepared. While Aidan knew those at bat would be at the bottom of the lineup, he didn’t know who exactly would be standing at the plate.

“Aidan’s been a fan since birth, whether he’s known it or not,” Aidan’s mother, Roie, said. “To be 9 years old and accomplish that is just something we’ll never forget.”

Everyone in the Eddelson family is a Mets fan, especially with his parents being born in Queens and Brooklyn. That enthusiasm has bled down into Aidan and his 6-year-old brother, Jack.

Aidan, who attends Mount Pleasant Elementary school, watched his first Mets game during the 2015 World Series when the Mets faced the Cincinnati Reds. He has been a dedicated fan ever since, saying he and the rest of his family have done their best to never miss a game.

Despite the family’s lifelong commitment to the team, it will never stop them from complaining about how they perform each season.

“They always do well in the beginning 30 games in the season, and then they downfall for some reason,” Aidan said. “They were first this year and last year, and then they just went down.”

“[The Mets] always do well in the beginning 30 games in the season, and then they downfall for some reason.”

— Aidan Eddelson

Nonetheless, Aidan’s mother said she and her family will always believe in their home team. Her husband confirmed it.

“This year, they ended on a high note,” Aidan’s father said.

Aidan said he plays little league hockey, soccer and baseball, where his favorite position is catcher. If he had a choice of career, it would either be a major league sports player or sports broadcaster. Therefore, it was really heartening for Aidan to hear, at the end of the broadcast, the veteran game pundits had only encouraging words for the young superfan.

“You did a fantastic job, you were so well prepared, and you had great notes,” Cohen said. “Ronny might become the general manager, Keith might retire, so there might be a spot in the booth before we know it.”

This post has been amended to reflect the correct spelling of young Eddelson.

Baseball is missing out on an entertainment gold mine. In most games, the third base coach is practically invisible, wandering in and out of a rectangular box that’s missing its back line.

Indeed, most of the time, the coach isn’t anywhere near lines that were drawn specifically for him. If those lines aren’t necessary, why draw them? And, if they are where the coach is supposed to be, then shouldn’t umpires enforce that rule? What kind of lessons are we teaching our children if the coaches can’t stay between the lines?

Are we telling them it’s OK to leave the lines? Or, maybe, we cleverly imagine that allowing them to stray from their limitations encourages children to exceed whatever limits others put on them — as happens in this space on occasion, but I digress.

No, you see, the third base coach spends an entire game performing: He appears to be simply scratching an itch on his nose, tapping his cap and motioning for sunscreen as he rubs his hand down his arm. Yet those gestures are a series of complicated signals that indicate what the batter and the runners should do before, during or after the next pitch.

Why does every team need to be so restricted and why does the coach’s facial expression always have to look like he’s trying to memorize a phone number written on a blackboard 90 feet away?

We are a creative culture, the endless Hollywood sequels to movies that shouldn’t have been made in the first place notwithstanding. Why can’t we encourage the third base coach to add entertainment and perhaps levity to a sport in which the home audience routinely watches players and managers shove sunflower seeds into their mouth and then expectorate them onto the field of dreams?

I have a few suggestions to bring more eyeballs to the third base coach and, perhaps, away from teams that long ago gave up hopes of a playoff berth. A coach could:

• Attempt to bring his hands together behind his back. Sal, as we’ll call him, could turn his back to the hitter, put one hand behind his back from below while reaching down from above with the other.

• Break into a one-person kick line. Who doesn’t love a great Broadway number? Sal could kick out his leg and raise his hat at the same time.

• Combine line dances. Sal could start with a Macarena, add a second of the wobble and then conclude with the hustle.

• Attempt to start a lawn mower. The coach could bend down as if he were fixing something on the ground and then pull straight up several times, hoping the engine catches.

• Wash his hands. This could serve two purposes: It could signal to the hitter to clean up his swing or mechanics; and it could remind everyone watching about the benefits of good hygiene, all the spitting and rubbing dirt between their fingers notwithstanding.

• Put a leash on an imaginary dog and stroll in place.

• And, finally, Sal could walk around his small box, tapping imaginary heads and then mouth the word “goose” and run back to his original spot.

These are just a few of the ways the forgotten man on the field might spruce up the game a bit. Maybe, if he caused the other team to focus on him enough, he might give his team an edge, allowing a runner on first to break for second as an appreciative pitcher became distracted by a coach’s antics. And, even if it didn’t work, it might bring a few smiles to fans during the dog days of summer.

Participants in MLB’s Home Run Derby listen to the national anthem. Photo by Daniel Dunaief

It’s all about family.

Sure, there was plenty of high-powered baseball last week when I had the privilege of attending my first Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., July 17, with my son, but, ultimately, it’s clear between and outside the lines that the players fill their energy reserves with the support of their families.

Los Angeles Dodger Manny Machado signs autographs. Photo by Daniel Dunaief

After our first trip to FanFest — a gathering of dedicated baseball aficionados — we wandered over to a nearby burger joint where a man named Frank suggested we go to the Marriott across the street because that was where all the players were staying. We wolfed down the last of our burgers and found a lobby filled with kids of all ages — including adults who enjoy sharing the excitement of the game with their own children — waiting for a glimpse of their favorite stars.

Within a half-hour of our arrival, superstars wandered in the front lobby, where they had about a 50-foot walk between a huge revolving door and a private, security-protected hallway opposite a sign forbidding pictures or autographs.

Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, whose muscular 6-foot, 5-inch frame made him appear to be the picture of a professional athlete, carried his young daughter in one arm and luggage in another, making it impossible for autograph seekers to ask him to sign their baseballs, programs or notebooks.

Other athletes followed the same pattern, carrying their young children or holding their hands, making it impossible for fans to demand a signature or even to interrupt their family moments.

On the other side of the spotlight, many of the eager fans weren’t too far from their parents, who urged them on and wished them well.

“Who’d you get?” one fan asked her son as he raced back to her, holding a ball carefully by the seams to avoid smudging the valuable ink. “Manny Machado!” he beamed, referring to the former Orioles superstar who the Los Angeles Dodgers would soon trade five players to acquire a day later.

“Good for you,” she clapped and cheered, pleased with her son’s success.

Cameras follow Yankee star Aaron Judge’s every move. Photo by Daniel Dunaief

On another trip to FanFest, I watched parents clad entirely in the ubiquitous red uniform of the Washington Nationals. A father with an open jersey flapping at his sides led his two small children, whose jerseys were buttoned up to their clavicles, across the enormous space toward the Major League Baseball store.

At the Home Run Derby July 16, the event that precedes the game in which a few sluggers essentially see how far they can hit baseballs, Washington fan favorite Bryce Harper didn’t disappoint the rabid Nationals fans, beating a determined and electrifying Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs. After his victory, Harper thanked the fans and his pitcher who, as it turned out, was his father Ron.

At the game itself, we were fortunate to sit fairly near the families of the American League all-stars. Patty and Wayne Judge, parents of burgeoning Yankee-great Aaron Judge, watched their 26-year-old son’s every move, filming him during his introduction and cheering as he circled the bases after his home run against starting pitcher Max Scherzer of the Nationals. Many in the Judge entourage, like those from other families, proudly wore jerseys with the names and number of their all-star on their backs.

Rays’ pitcher Blake Snell’s family filled up almost an entire row of seats, with his name and his number “4” draped across their backs.

When Detroit Tigers pitcher Joe Jiménez entered the game from the bullpen, his family stood proudly, with each of them filming the jog from the left field fence.

Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor electrified his family with a hit that almost made it out of the stadium on a record-setting night for home runs. As he jogged back to the dugout to get his glove, his family stood and applauded his effort, as his broad, patented smile crossed his face.

Yankee pitchers Aroldis Chapman and Luis Severino play catch. Photo by Daniel Dunaief

In the top of the eighth, Lindor’s replacement at shortstop, the Mariners’ Jean Segura crushed a three-run homer, triggering a big celebration from his extended family, who high-fived each other and who received congratulations from the nearby Lindor family.

Segura was an unexpected hero, who was the last player named to join the American League team, beating out Yankee Giancarlo Stanton, among others.

Yes, we witnessed all-stars with the ability to hit balls over 400 feet. Ultimately, though, we had the chance to see families share a weekend that mirrored similar scenes around the world, albeit on a smaller scale. Watching all these families come together to celebrate their baseball achievements made me feel like I was at a high-profile Little League game. Parents, siblings and friends stand on the sidelines, supporting their sons, daughters, brothers and sisters as they revel in the opportunity of the next at-bat.

The result? The American League triumphed over the National League, 8-6, in the 10th inning of an unforgettable all-star game.