By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The baton was passed from the greatest of Mets to their brilliant new star when Hall of Famer Tom Seaver threw the ceremonial first pitch and Matt Harvey started for the National League at Tuesday's All-Star game.
Seaver became the first Mets pitcher to start the Midsummer Classic when he took the mound in the 1970 game, a year after helping the New Yorkers win their first World Series.
The three-time Cy Young recipient as best pitcher in the National League and career 300-game winner gave way to fireballer Harvey, 24, when the game began and Citi Field fans roared for both men in a stirring start to the festivities.
"When I'm warming up out there and they start chanting my name, that's something that you, as a kid, I don't think you could ever imagine," Harvey told reporters.
"This whole experience has been absolutely incredible for me, something I'll never forget."
Harvey, who has compiled a 7-2 record with a sterling 2.35 earned run average (ERA) for the offensively challenged Mets, became the youngest All-Star starting pitcher since the Mets' Dwight "Doc" Gooden started the game at age 23 in 1988.
"It was so much fun," said Harvey, one of a record 39 first-time All-Stars in the game. "Just being in the locker room with all the guys, the whole experience, the Red Carpet; it being in New York, and starting.
"As a kid, I don't think you could have dreamed of doing something like that. It was a tremendous honor, and something I'm very thankful for."
Harvey got off to a bumpy start.
His first pitch was sliced down the first base line by Mike Trout for a double and the hard-throwing righthander hit Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano just above the knee with a 96 mph fastball in the next at-bat.
Cano, who escaped with just a bruise, was replaced by a pinch-runner but Harvey felt terrible.
"Obviously that was the last thing I wanted to do was go out there and possibly injure somebody," Harvey said. "When he came off, I apologized and made sure that he was okay."
After the game Cano said: "He said: 'My bad.' I said: 'No problem.' I know he don't want to hit nobody. Just part of the game."
Harvey collected himself and struck out 2012 Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, got major league home run leader Chris Davis to fly out to center and struck out Jose Bautista to end the threat.
After a one-two-three second inning, he left the mound to roars from a crowd of more than 45,000 that was the largest ever to attend a game at Citi Field.
The National League lost 3-0 but for Harvey it was a night to remember.
"This whole experience has just been, you know, breathtaking," he said.
(Editing by John O'Brien)