Although it was a bright sunny sky, the stars were certainly out in downtown Cleveland Tuesday afternoon, as the best Major League Baseball has to offer paraded through the streets before tonight's All-Star Game at Progressive Field.
Indians legends Sandy Alomar Jr. (six-time All-Star) and Jim Thome (five-time All-Star and Hall of Famer) served as grand marshals for the event. Both were in awe of the amount of fans that came out to show their support in a city that has not hosted the Midsummer Classic since 1997.
"It just brings back so many memories of '97," Alomar, the MVP of that game, said. "The city rallied together for this event, and they put on a good show for the fans."
"It's incredible, Thome added. "We get to celebrate our great ballpark, our great city. It's just a special time here."
The Tribe boasts four All-Stars this time around: Carlos Santana (the American League's starter at first base), Francisco Lindor, Brad Hand, and Shane Bieber. The moment is particularly special for Santana, who is back with his longtime club after a year with the Philadelphia Phillies and is an All-Star for the first time.
"Cleveland is great," he said. "I love Cleveland, and I hope to finish my career here."
Another first time All-Star is Bieber, who was named to the team this past Saturday as a roster replacement. The 24-year-old is just taking it all in.
"It's surreal," he said. "I wasn't sure what to expect, but the energy's been amazing."
Of course, no event at Progressive Field would be complete without Tribe manager Terry Francona. He had previously skippered two All-Star games when his Boston Red Sox won the World Series, and is a part of Alex Cora's coaching staff this year.
"People now get to see what I've been bragging about for seven years," he said of Cleveland."
Francona also has the benefit of coming into the All-Star Break on a high note: After a slow start to the year, the Indians have gone on a 21-8 tear, and now find themselves just 5 1/2 games behind the first place Minnesota Twins.
"We keep each other going," he said. "We lose together, we win together...If we're going in the same direction, even if it's the wrong direction, we're going to be okay."
This weekend will also be special for two former Indians All-Stars. First Michael Brantley, who received the honor three times during his 10-year tenure in Cleveland. He signed as a free agent with the Houston Astros in the offseason and will start in left field tonight, his first game back at Progressive Field.
"I was honored to be here for 10 years," he said. "To see these fans again is great."
Along with Brantley, former Tribe ace CC Sabathia joins the American League as an honorary All-Star in his 19th and final year in the big leagues. Now with the New York Yankees, the 38-year-old left-hander made history this year by striking out his 3,000th batter and winning his 250th game, and is considered by many to be a future Hall of Famer. He was previously honored at Progressive Field (the stadium he called home for seven and a half seasons) during a regular season series earlier this year, but will now be recognized by Commissioner Rob Manfred before tonight's game.
"This is my home," he said. "The only regret I have in my career is not winning a championship here."