It’s a spectacle, the annual Home Run Derby, the bashing party that takes place annually on the day before the All-Star Game.
Normally, I ignore the slugfest, marked by a bunch of guys who strike out a lot in their regular-season appearances but also hit a bunch of home runs. Strike out. Or hit the long ball.
This year, however, the big names–with the exception of Washington Nationals hometown hero Bryce Harper–didn’t take part in the derby. Instead, the event featured guys like Javier Baez, Max Muncy, Rhys Hoskins, Jesus Aguilar, Freddie Freeman, Alex Bregman and Kyle Schwarber.
Unless you happen to be a fan of his particular team, most of these guys are not household names. They all had fun, it seemed to me, as they sought to launch a little white ball into the stands, where waiting fans with baseball gloves were ready to catch a souvenir at the crack of the bat.
At one point, ESPN broadcaster Jessica Mendoza snagged Boston Red Sox Golden Glove right fielder Mookie Betts, took him to the outfield where a bunch of kids were shagging balls that weren’t hit out, and asked him to give tips to people on how to catch balls in the outfield. Betts, for his part, said he didn’t want to go after any fly balls himself, because he was worried he might run into someone, and “I have to play tomorrow.” Mendoza also asked him if he was surprised that some of the smaller derby participants were hitting a big number of home runs. “No,” he said, “because sometimes they say that the best perfume comes in the smallest packages.”
Mendoza also asked Betts why he wasn’t participating, and he said he wasn’t considered a home run hitter, like the guys who were participating. She questioned that, and he replied, “Sometimes I hit the ball and it goes over the fence.”
This exchange added to the Home Run Derby’s festive atmosphere. I originally thought I’d watch the first round, but ended by staying for the entire thing, as Harper blasted more dingers than Schwarber in the final round, taking home the trophy in front of his home town crowd.
Harper’s father was the one who pitched to him during the derby. Turns out that he’d raised Bryce as a single father after Bryce’s mother passed away when he was a young child.
Great story. Great fun.
I love this game.