MIAMI -- Before the game, he had crouched down there in the dirt near home plate and caught the still-sharp offering from Juan Marichal, one of eight living Latin American-born Hall of Famers to throw out a ceremonial first pitch before the 88th All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. Robinson Cano rose to his feet, gave the Dominican Dandy a big hug, posed for some photos and retreated to the American League dugout.
If his All-Star experience had ended there, Cano would have gone home happy, contented. But after Marichal, Roberto Alomar, Luis Aparicio, Rod Carew, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Pedro Martinez, Tony Perez, Ivan Rodriguez and the family of the late Roberto Clemente had their moment, Cano had his. With one swing of the bat in the top of the 10th inning, the modern-day Latin legend gave the American League a 2-1 victory over the National League at Marlins Park and earned himself the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet.
"It means a lot," Cano said. "Those guys really started this game for the Latin American players, guys that really made this game so fun and exciting, made fans come and watch, and opened the doors for us. ... It's something, to catch that first pitch and say hello to them and being in that picture, I just can't wait to get to social media and get that picture and put it on a frame in my home."
The picture's nice, but so is the new Corvette he won along with this All-Star honor.
Even for an eight-time All-Star who has already accomplished so much in this sport -- closing in on 2,300 hits and 300 homers, more than 1,100 RBIs, seven postseason appearances, a $240 million contract and a 2011 win in the Home Run Derby -- this was a magic night in the Magic City.
"This reminds me of the same day that I won the Home Run Derby with my dad [Jose, a former pitcher who threw to Cano at Chase Field]," Cano said. "This is for my family and my fans in Seattle and here in Miami."
Cano became Seattle's third All-Star MVP, joining Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. (1992) and future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki (2007). That's impressive company.
What is also impressive about Cano's homer heroics is the context in which they came. So much of the conversation that preceded this game was about the brilliant power performances we're seeing from young hitters, most prominently this year's Derby champ, Aaron Judge. Yet Cano and the Puerto Rican-born Yadier Molina, both of whom are 34, hit the only long balls in the Midsummer Classic, proving the old(er) dudes can still get it done and adding to that Latin legacy and inspiring the next generation.
"Playing on the same team as Robinson Cano, I remember him when he was with the Yankees," said Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna. "I grew up watching him play. Molina is one of the best players that I've ever seen. Like I've said, I grew up watching those guys, so playing against them or on the same team as them means everything to me."
This is how the game connects generations and connects cultures. But in terms of Tuesday's outcome, all that mattered was how Cano connected with Wade Davis' 1-1 knuckle-curve at a moment when there was no telling how long the game would go on. Cano had struck out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh, but he sent this line drive into the visitors' bullpen in right field 395 feet, as projected by Statcast™, with an exit velocity of 106 mph and a 21-degree launch angle.
He became the first player to homer in extras in an All-Star Game since -- coincidentally enough -- Perez, in 1967.
"When I knew I had to face Wade Davis, a guy that throws hard with a cutter, he threw me one for a ball and another and I was like, 'Oh my God, you have to get your head out front and be able to handle the breaking ball,'" Cano said. "I was able to put a good swing on it."
The AL's only other run had come in the fifth on a bloop RBI single from Miguel Sano. So the Sano-Cano connection was all it took to edge the NL for the fifth straight year.
This time, though, the game did not count for home-field advantage in the World Series -- a fact Cano didn't even realize until earlier in the week. With nothing serious on the line, players had fun with the performance, including Cano's teammate Nelson Cruz taking an on-field photo with umpire Joe West. As a reserve, Cano said learning about the home-field angle made him more confident he'd actually get in the game.
"Really, honestly, I like it that way," he said. "That way you're able now to joke around, make the game more fun, like the way it used to be before. That's what people and fans love now these days, especially joking around with social media. Honestly, it's a blessing."
Latin America has blessed this sport with so many stars. And on this night, Cano shined the brightest.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.