CLEVELAND -- Though the primary focus of next week's Midsummer Classic will be devoted to the top players in the Majors, a portion of the publicity will be dedicated to a group of Americans truly worthy of celebration.
Before the 84th All-Star Game at Citi Field begins on Tuesday, 30 veterans and military service members -- one for each club -- will be recognized in a pregame ceremony as part of the Tribute for Heroes campaign, a national initiative organized by Major League Baseball and People magazine. On Wednesday, the winners were announced, with World War II veteran Raymond T. Matwich chosen as the Indians' representative.
A resident of Leavittsburg, Ohio, Matwich is a 92-year-old Army vet who guarded the door to the war room where the plans for Operation Dragoon -- the invasion of south France -- were put together. Following the end of the war, Matwich received five Battle Stars and was discharged as a Corporal.
The 30 winners were decided by fan voting. They came from a pool of 90 finalists, who were chosen by the league, the magazine and a panel that featured two retired generals and seven players, including Indians first baseman/outfielder Nick Swisher.
"It's so nice to be able to put the spotlight on them and to let everybody know who the real heroes are," Swisher said. "For people that do things like that, I don't know if I could do something like that. The pride that I have for people like that, it's just amazing."
In addition to being recognized before the All-Star Game, the 30 winners will take part in other festivities during the week, such as a private tour of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, a VIP reception on the Intrepid, the All-Star Red Carpet Show presented by Chevrolet and the Chevrolet Home Run Derby.
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.