CLEVELAND — As he packed up his equipment bag late Tuesday night, CC Sabathia said the All-Star Game was one of the best days of his 19 years in the major leagues.
The Yankees lefthander didn’t throw a pitch. He wasn’t even on the American League roster. But thanks to an old friend, who just happens to manage the Red Sox, it was a special night.
Alex Cora came up with the idea to let Sabathia, a former Indians All-Star, join the AL team unofficially so the crowd at Progressive Field could salute him one final time before he retired.
“Alex was the one who contacted me and asked me if I would do it, if I had any plans,” Sabathia said. “I was honored that he asked. He contacted the league and made it all happen. That he even thought about me like that, I was honored.”
Sabathia played parts of eight seasons with the Indians at the start of his career, winning 106 games and the 2007 Cy Young Award before he was traded in 2008.
Cora signed with the Indians in 2005 and they soon became friends.
“We were close. He was an older guy, one of our teachers. I always looked to him,” Sabathia said. “I asked him for a lot of advice and we had a good relationship.”
Sabathia and his family were invited to Cleveland and received All-Star treatment. They rode in the red carpet parade to the game and Sabathia was in the dugout in his Yankees pinstripes.
The soon-to-be-39-year-old threw out the first pitch to former Indians catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. and with two outs in the ninth inning made a mound visit to talk with Yankees teammate Aroldis Chapman.
That was Cora’s idea, too.
The crowd cheered again before Sabathia went back to the dugout. Chapman then struck out Yasmani Grandal to finish off the 4-3 victory.
“The fans recognize he’s been one of the best pitchers in the big leagues,” Cora said. “The guy has won more than 250 games, 3,000 strikeouts. Everything started here in Cleveland. We all know he’s going to retire. I was like, ‘Hey, let everybody know who he is.’ I think it was a nice tribute.”
Cora also asked Sabathia to address the team before the game.
“I thought I was terrible,” he said with a laugh. “I finally just said, ‘Go kick some ass.’ ”
Sabathia has been with the Yankees since 2009 and has had his share of hot-tempered moments against the Red Sox. But some things transcend the rivalry.
“Before all that we were teammates and friends,” Sabathia said. “That’s the game, it’s a brotherhood. It’s awesome. That was one of the cooler moments I’ve had in baseball.”