Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Why I Love The Home Run Derby

Here we are, once again in the middle of summer and on the brink of MLB's All-Star game and I have six words to share: I Love The Home Run Derby! Seriously, folks, whoever invented this competition deserves an honorary spot in the Hall of Fame (of course as far as I know he - or she? - already has one). If anyone's unfamiliar with this rockin' event - it was on last night, I'm really sorry if you missed it - it involves a bunch of baseball's best sluggers of the season trying to do nothing other than hit the ball outta the park. That's it. No full-counts, no running bases, no pitchers' pick-off moves - it's all home runs, all the time! Each player gets an unlimited number of pitches so they can wait for the one they like best and then just swing away. For every hit ball that's not a home run it counts as an "out" but they up the margin from 3 to 10 so each guy gets quite a few chances.

But my favorite thing about the HRD is that it generally constitutes a complete role reversal in that players are the fans and fans become the players. Here's a group of big-tough-guy baseball players unabashedly cheering each other on. As with the All-Star game it's National vs. American League, so you'll get Yankees supporting Red Sox and Cardinals rooting for an Astro - meanwhile the fans show all the outfield talent, performing Olympic quality stunts to try to catch some of the balls. Last night's challenge at PNC park was exceptionally hilarious because of the Allegheny River that runs adjacent to the field. You might guess that a river would deter fans from gathering outside the park to fight for the far hit homer but instead it seemed actually to encourage them. I can just picture the conversations that occurred all over Pittsburgh's suburbs: "Honey, let's go kyaking... And bring your baseball glove!!"

As with most sporting events there's little at stake besides bragging rights and the Home Run Derby is ultimately all about fun and entertainment. For those that missed the actual event, the MLB video games for PS2 (and likely XBox as well) have a Home Run Derby level for do-it-yourself HRD entertainment. Unfortunately, the game doesn't come with crazy fans outside the stadiums but you will get the luxury of entering any player you like into the competition. Tony and I once created a "Funny Batting Stance" Home Run Derby and chose players such as Moises Alou, Gary Sheffield and Craig Counsel simply based on the silliness of their pre-swing stances. Our HR tallys never got high - likely because accuracy gave way to laughter a few too many times. Entertainment, pure and simple. And that, my friends, is why I Love the Home Run Derby.

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