By Jose M. Romero / @RomeroJoseM
For FOX Deportes
All-Star Game Home Run derbies are fun. Hand-picked batting practice pitchers groove fastballs right where the participants want them, and it’s fly away, bombs away, see ya, gone, goodbye into the sea of humanity in the outfield seat.
The home run is the most exciting play in baseball, and the home run derby pretty much the most exciting event of the three days. The All-Star Game itself has significance, but people want to see baseballs get hammered high and deep into the night sky by the power hitters of the game. They want to cheer for the hometown guy or league. They want to ooh and ahh at majestic drives that clang off facades or travel the farthest over the fences.
The six other boppers have been chosen by the respective American and National League captains, Robinson Cano of the Yankees and Matt Kemp of the Dodgers. Fans across the nation and beyond look forward to seeing baseballs soar into the seats at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium.
I enjoy the derby. I’ve witnessed two of them in person and have almost been hit by a Jason Giambi bomb high up in right field. But I do have a few points of contention with the event.
1. There must always be a player from the host city in the derby. It’s not much to ask a captain to pick a player from the local team. Give the local fans who spent a lot of money on tickets someone to cheer for. If the home team doesn’t have anyone with a lot of home runs, well, the host league just has to deal with it. It could be a problem for either league’s derby team from one year to the next. Not having a Royals player in the derby is just wrong, and Billy Butler is not only KC’s All-Star, but a guy with 16 homers.
2. Unless you are about to come off the disabled list, skip the derby and
rest up. This is why I don’t have a problem with Kemp taking part, like so many other people do. Kemp is technically still on the disabled list, but he’s completed his rehab stints in the minors and is due to come off when the All-Star break is over. If that wasn’t the case, I’d say skip it. But Kemp is ready to play, and these extra swings can’t hurt him.
3. The 2005 Home Run Derby in Detroit was the best. Eight players, one each from a country represented in the following year’s World Baseball Classic. There was a slugger from Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Panama, South Korea, the U.S., Canada and The Netherlands. (What? No Mexican home run hitter? Must have been a down year for the position players). The event really meant something that year, more than just a house for the fan matched up with the winning player. There was international bragging rights.
When Bobby Abreu won the derby for Venezuela, his countrymen and All-Star teammates were there with smiles, open arms and a big Venezuelan flag to drape over him. Professional baseball players acting like kids again, dancing around the hero. “It was a lot of fun,” Abreu said when I asked him about it recently.
It would be great to see that in every Home Run Derby leading up to a World Baseball Classic. It shouldn’t be too hard to find a participant from all of those countries or others given the globalization of the game.