It has lost a little sparkle over the decades. It is no longer appointment television, like it once was, when only four channels were available on TV and kids’ thumbs weren’t constantly glued to both sides of their cell phones.
Still, there’s nothing like baseball’s All-Star Game.
It’s something of a cross between a sporting event and a movie premiere, where celebrities and legends gather to be seen, to see each other, and perhaps see a pretty good game.
It is why Southern baseball coach Roger Cador tries every year to make it there, wherever “there” happens to be.
Over time, he’s met some of the game’s titans - Tommy Lasorda, Hank Aaron, Juan Marichal and an endless list of others. Three years ago, he got a personal tour of George Steinbrenner’s suite at old Yankee Stadium. At the All-Star Game, he has seen almost everything.
But none of those experiences will compare to next week, when Cador will travel to Phoenix, settle into a seat at Chase Field and watch with wonder as the National League starters are introduced.
At second base, from the Milwaukee Brewers, Rickie Weeks. A Southern guy. Cador’s guy.
“When Rickie was here, I told so many Southernites that he was the real deal,” he said. “That’s the only real disappointment I had about Rickie’s career (at Southern) - not enough people appreciated what we had.”
They do now.
Weeks is only the second player from Southern to make an All-Star team, alongside Hall of Famer Lou Brock.
Weeks will be the first Brewers second baseman to start in an All-Star Game since Hall of Famer Paul Molitor did so in Cincinnati, some 23 years ago.
Now, Weeks walks among them. Not bad for a man from Altamonte Springs, Fla., who wasn’t even drafted out of high school.
Weeks once said that “at Southern, my job was to come in and work hard,” and he certainly did.
When Weeks arrived, his first dorm room didn’t have air conditioning. Cador gave him permission to move off campus, but Weeks just shrugged. He didn’t have a car while at Southern. He reasoned that if he stayed on campus, he’d be able to work out at Lee-Hines Field more often, and he’d make it to class with a minimum of fuss.
He became a three-time All-American, a Golden Spikes Award winner and a No. 2 overall selection in the 2003 draft.
He was slow to realize his pro potential, and in 2009 - just when he’d hit his stride - Weeks suffered a season-ending wrist injury.
“He was showing he could be the kind of player we all thought he could be,” general manager Doug Melvin said at the time.
Not to worry. He simply kept his head down and kept working.
“It’s really refreshing to see that he remembered the things that I told him,” Cador said, “and it’s refreshing to know that he’s still the same person he always was.”