SAN DIEGO -- Considering that this was David Ortiz's final All-Star Game appearance, you might have expected him to become wistful, looking back on a long, historic career.
Instead, Ortiz seemed to focus more on the future -- not his necessarily, but that of the game.
In an impassioned pre-game speech to his American League teammates prior to their 4-2 win over the National League, Ortiz stressed the importance and value of playing it forward.
He encouraged the players to share their knowledge and expertise with the next generation.
"I wasn't planning on (speaking),'' said Ortiz, "but I touched some bases. They were important.''
At this moment, as his career heads for the final stretch, Ortiz wasn't interested in self-aggrandizing. Instead, he stressed the importance of advancing the game, of making it better for the next generation and carrying the torch.
It was a message that resonated with the players in the room, and especially so with his Red Sox teammates who were with him.
"It was special,'' said Jackie Bradley Jr. "You could tell it was from the heart. You could tell he meant what he was saying. He had a lot of passion. He just shared that he wants the game to get better. Not saying that the game isn't great now, but he just wants the torch passed down. He wants guys to be able to share things with kids and help them and better themselves and the game.
"It meant a lot coming from someone like that, who you definitely respect. You definitely listened. You take hold of it and hopefully you can use it down the line.''
"It doesn't surprise me that he did that,'' added Steven Wright. "He wants the best for everybody, even if they're our opponent. He wants everybody to go out there and enjoy the game and treat every day like it's your last. That's what I got out of it.''
Once the game began, Ortiz found himself the center of attention. Other than members of the San Diego Padres or those with local ties (Stephen Strasburg), Ortiz got the warmest reception and loudest ovation of any player in pre-game introductions.
He hit a pea to first that Anthony Rizzo artfully picked with his glove in the first inning, then worked a walk off Jose Fernandez in the third before coming out of the game.
As he left, the A.L. bench emptied to welcome him and shake his hand and congratulate him.
Ortiz was touched by the gesture, and by what he word from the Next Generation of players over the last two days.
"A guy like Kris Bryant coming up to me and saying, 'Papi, you're my hero,' '' said Ortiz, shaking his head in amazement. "I was like, 'Man! You're making me feel older than I am.' Those are the kinds of things you want to hear about, coming from the younger guys. It was an unbelievable experience.''
Ortiz couldn't keep from gushing about the young stars that dot the MLB landscape. When he was asked what he's reflected on this week at his 10th and final All-Star appearance, Ortiz didn't focus on himself, but rather, the young players following in his wake.
"For the past couple of days, I've been walking around and bumping into (the new) faces of baseball,'' he said. "It's not like it used to be. When I first got to the big leagues, the faces of baseball were guys almost my (present) age, maybe a little young. Now, it's guys 21, 22, 23 years old. That tells me that the game of baseball is in unbelievable hands.''
But on this night, though he wouldn't spend much time addressing it himself, the game was in good hands, too -- the hands of a man taking a long, thoughtful look around at those who can only hope to impact the game the way he has.