With the outcome of the MLB All Star Game no longer affecting home field advantage in the World Series, those in Miami were free for the first time in years to take the field with a playfulness more fitting of the exhibition.
The game itself was not a barn-burner by any means, but there were a few moments of levity that stood out as highlights to baseball fans showing what good the game could produce.
One such moment occurred in the sixth inning, when Mariners star Nelson Cruz took out his phone before reaching the batters box and requested a picture with veteran umpire Joe West. Cruz had hoped to take a selfie with the ump but was hindered by his batting gloves, leading catcher Yadier Molina to play the role of photographer.
West, who earlier this season became just the third umpire in league history to work 5,000 games, seems highly amused by the moment, which resulted in this quality Instagram post from Cruz.
Asked after the game why he wanted a picture with Joe West, Cruz said, “Well, he’s a legend, you know? I think that’s the only chance you get to take a picture with Joe West.”
According to the Seattle Times, Cruz and West’s relationship goes back to Cruz’s rookie season, where the longtime umpire was forgiving of a mental error by the young player. While sprinting for second base, Cruz stayed upright when he should have slid. He was worried he’d just made a costly baserunning error, but West called him safe.
“He said, ‘Let’s go rookie, next time, slide,'” Cruz recalled. “That stuck in my mind. He saved my butt calling me safe.”
It’s a moment Cruz still recalls fondly, and surely a reason why the picture was such an important goal of his All Star Game. You can watch video of the photo op below.
Nelson Cruz brought his phone up to the plate and gave it to Yadier Molina to take a picture with Joe West ⚾️❤pic.twitter.com/V7evDxAKZm
— Ballplayer™ (@BaIIplayer) July 12, 2017