While I always find the MLB All-Star break a fun time of year for many different reasons, the Home Run Derby has been an epic fail since.. well.. since longer than I can remember. While trying to recall derbies of recent years, aside from the Citi Field derby which i attended in person, the only others that pop into mind with any type of lasting memories are the epic show that Josh Hamilton put on to close out the old Yankee Stadium in 2008, despite not even winning the thing, and David Wright’s performance in Pittsburgh in 2006, again not winning the thing.
Over the years, the top sluggers in baseball have been nowhere to be found when it comes to the derby, much like in the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest. The fans have been forced to sit through hours of taking pitches, good intentioned ribbing between friends, foes and their children and then the occasional ball being hit out of the park. Not to mention the back back back’s by a way past his prime Boomer on ESPN and the dreaded hangover that the derby seemed to have on past derby winners, which has lead to their absence from the competition (i.e.; Abreu, Wright and many others).
Low and behold, here comes 2015’s version. New commissioner. New format. Whoever was ultimately behind this decision should be rewarded handsomely, because Monday night was a ton of fun, and would have been even without the hometown hero, Todd Frazier, winning. The crowd seemed energized from start to finish, and despite personally missing the gold ball final out, the competitive juices were clearly flowing from start to finish.
Head to head, timed rounds, 30 second time outs and bonus time really changed the mentality of the hitters and aside from Trout and Harper passing on this year’s reformatted rendition for very valid reasons, it was full of stars both young and old. There was enough veteran presence with Fielder and Pujols to bring in some of the older viewers to go along with the Bryant’s and Pederson’s to keep the kids attention. I know my wife and I were tuned in from pitch one to Rizzo and I can’t remember the last time I could say that about the derby. Hopefully this version is here to stay as it was a clear win. Well done baseball, well done.