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Kipnis proud to play behind Mariano in ASG

Kipnis proud to play behind Mariano in ASG

Kipnis proud to play behind Mariano in ASG

MINNEAPOLIS -- There were times when Jason Kipnis had trouble getting to his locker inside the American League's clubhouse during All-Star week. That was due to the fact that Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was positioned in the adjacent stall.

Rivera plans on retiring at the end of the season, and the All-Star Game served as a kind of farewell celebration for the game's all-time saves leader. Needless to say, Rivera drew a constant crowd throughout the festivities at Citi Field earlier this week.

"I couldn't even get to my locker sometimes," Kipnis said. "That guy had a lot busier couple days than I did. But to be able to play behind him for his last All-Star Game appearance, that's going to be one of the things I'll take away the most."

Kipnis was at Target Field on Friday, reunited with his Indians teammates for the start of the season's second half. The second baseman reflected on his first All-Star Game experience, which he said he will always cherish for his part in Rivera's sendoff.

Kipnis entered the game in the seventh inning and stepped to the plate in the eighth, when he drilled a pitch from Braves closer Craig Kimbrel to left field for a run-scoring double. Kipnis gloved a grounder from Milwaukee's Jean Segura in the bottom of the eighth with Rivera on the mound for the final time as an All-Star.

"I'm not going to lie, for a while I didn't want a ball hit to me," Kipnis said. "I almost wanted to just sit there and watch, and I didn't want to screw anything up. Of course, the first guy hits it my way."

Kipnis also caught the game's final out to seal a 3-0 win for the American League, but the ball did not wind up in the second baseman's equipment bag. He gave it to Texas closer Joe Nathan, who sealed the game and, in turn, delivered the ball to Rivera.

The more All-Star Games Kipnis has under his belt, the more likely it is that he will be recognizable.

Consider that an employee assigned to help Kipnis welcomed him to New York as "Mr. Swisher," referring to Indians outfielder Nick Swisher. There was also a moment when a fan walked right by Kipnis and instead asked one of his brothers for an autograph.

"I can blend in usually and keep my head down and walk by people," Kipnis said. "My brother is 6-foot-2 and in shape. I'm not surprised at all that they thought he was a player and I wasn't."

That might change over time.

"I hope so," Kipnis said with a laugh. "I'd appreciate it."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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