Probably my second favorite day of the baseball season happens today, the Home Run Derby. I’ve always loved the contest from I was a young boy. I remember the ’97 derby at Jacobs Field, the ’98 derby at Coors Field and the ’99 derby at Fenway. Thsoe were the glory days for baseball in my lifetime. I loved seeing a young Griffey drive the ball deep and the B-list players entering the contest. Players such as John Jaha, Brady Anderson and Jeromy Burnitz. They are just afterthoughts in today’s minds but I welcomed them with open arms back in the day.
More recently I’ve followed the derby closely and embraced a new era of players. In 2005 I was overjoyed when Jason Bay was selected to be a derby participant.
You can see from the grimace of on his face that he was pretty dissapointed. Bay did not hit a single ball over the fence at Detroit’s Comerica Park. He was booed off the field, but remained in good spirits. This was back when Jason was coming off his Rookie of the Year campaign. He was fresh on the scene and a young face. It is amazing how far he has come. WIth all the talks on his multi year and multi million dollar contracts forthcoming, I’m proud to say I was there form the start. When he was booed at the derby in 2005 I was still proud. Seeing one of my guys with the gold P, in the national spotlight. It was touching.
While seeing a single player in the spotlight is cool it was even better to see the city of Pittsburgh and PNC Park living in the limelight. In 2006 the All Star festivities came to the Steel City. With everything on display for the entire baseball world to see, the city surely did not dissapoint….and neither did Ryan Howard in the 2006 Home Run derby.
Howard too was fairly new to the baseball world back then. He was a big body filling in the shoes of Jim Thome out there in Philly. He used his big wood to amaze the sold out crowd at PNC Park. I was lucky enough to be in attendance at this derby and let me tell you, it was the best live baseball moment I have ever seen. Howard, along with other sluggers David Ortiz, David Wright, Miquel Cabrera and Miquel Tejada dazzled the world with their powerful swings. Many balls landed in the Allegheny River and boats and kayaks went crazy trying to recover the commemorative balls. The best jaw dropping scene came when Howard hit a “HIT IT HERE” sign out in left field. If you’ve ever seen the derby you will see a smattering of these banners around teh stadium. They are sponsered by Mastercard and if a player hits it somebody in the crowd wins a bunch of money. Howard nailed the banner to win the derby. You couldn’t have asked for a better finish to cap off a homerun derby. It was fantastic. As much as I dislike the Philies I was so happy for Howard and myself for seeing such an amazing feat live and in person.
With the derby just hours away I can’t help but feel a little sad. I will be working late for the second year in a row missing the Home Run Derby. Last season I was working and recieved a wave of texts from friends telling me a play by play. I heard all about Josh Hamilton going bonkers and how he ended up losing it. This year I’ve informed my buds not to tell me what is going on. I will have it taped for my enjoyment when I am home and showered up.
Here is the lineup for this year’s HR Derby.
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Brandon Inge, Detroit Tigers
Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers
Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay Rays
Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers
Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Padres
Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
The National League guys look stacked. It was unique seeing all members of the NL being first basemen. They are the best candidates for the derby and will be sure to put on a show. With Albert Pujols batting in front of his hometown fans, I’m sure he’ll be loaded with an advanatge. He knows the park and knows the atmosphere, however I do not think he will win it.
The American League is the lesser of the two of two in terms of power. Cruz, Pena, Inge and Mauer are doing well at the plate and earn the spot but compared to Pujols, Fielder, Gonzalez and Howard the first basemen blow them out of the water.
When the dust settles I beleiev an underdog will come out victorious in this derby.
Thats right Adriiiiiiiiian! Not Rocky’s wife, Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres. He’s a cool guy. Playing on a well below average team but he sticks out. He has 24 homers in the first half and has been swinging the bat very well. I remember a game earlier in the year when Gonzo nailed 2 dingers in a game.
I’m very excited for what is to come in this derby. Just make sure nobody texts me the results between the hours of 8 and 10.