Results tagged ‘ 2009 State Farm Home Run Derby ’

Sunday Rewind: “Options for Broadcast Changes to the Home Run Derby”

 

 
Blogger’s Note:

As it has been my custom this off season to pry the rusty hinges of my archives and troll fror some of the better stuff I have written during 2009, this installment was first posted on July 14,2009 right after I ended the chaos of watching the “ESPN Baseball Three Stooges” do their thing boring and completely putting to sleep the audience during another State Farm Home Run Derby telecast.

The ideas might be filled with an ocean of controversy for MLB or even ESPN to promote change within the structure of the broadcast seats during this telecast, but I would rather watch this event with the sound off than hear one more Joe Morgan “back in the Day” reference about how the “Old Timer’s” did it.  And Chris Berman, I love you dude, but there are only so many “back…Back..Back..” moments I can hear in a broadcast before my ears bleed. 

Here we go again people, eight hours until all the fun surrounding the 2009 All Star game starts all over again. But hopefully tonight’s game will not have that rambling and totaly brain numbing feel of last night’s State Farm Home Run Derby. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching a home run as much as the rest of you, but it did not have the same flavor and thrill for me anymore for some reason.

Not to say there were no majestic swats into the outfield caverns encompassing Busch Stadium during that event.  There were a few blasts that evoked a realistic awe factor from me watching from my couch peering in HD at my big screen, but for some weird reason, the thrill of the event, the anxious anticipation of watching one go deep into the night sky and the true spectacle of  seeing a power display all seemed a bit subdued  and dull for some reason.

I sat there and tried to wander back into the caverns of my mind and seek an answer to why I felt this way. But it wasn’t until I heard the shriek of  “Back…Back…Back!” surrounding me as it thundered over the living room from my television screen by ESPN legend Chris Berman. It was then that it all finally began to click and fall into place. The  thrill and magestic power displayed during this event was not falling by the wayside for me, it was the stale and predictable audio coming out of the mouth of  the “Three Stooges” clones/commentating of Berman, MLB Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, and former Met GM Steve Phillips.

For some reason, during every participants at bats the trio made sure to fill our brains with great information and thrilling backstories into the player’s rise to this level of the game. But it was instantly ruined by the cliche’s and all around locker room banter that should be reserved for pre and post game discussions, not for a four hour event during Prime Time. Sometimes I wish that the head honchos’ at MLB notice this air of bad breath during the game and decide collectively to maybe select as commentators’ some of the great voices  from parks around the Major Leagues to come out and broadcast the Home Run Derby as a tribute to their announcing chops. and expand their own fanbase.

Locally here with the Tampa Bay Rays, we have been blessed with a pretty good broadcast crew on both the television and the radio over our short history. But then again every city has  been blessed at some time in their history with that same distinction. Maybe MLB can regenerate that anticipation and excitement for the Home Run Derby again by instituting a much needed vocal change in the on-the-field staff covering the event.

By including a renowned or even Hall of Fame level broadcaster into the mix, it would bring a local flavor to the event that most of the 29 MLB teams never get to experience during that club’s 81 home games. Not that I would not love to see  St. Louis Cardinals and Fox broadcaster Joe Buck pop down there like he did last night, but  there is such a treasure trove of talent speaking into mics all around baseball during the regular season.
 

I  am all for a wild idea like maybe one of the radio or television voices from the hosting stadium’s broadcast team to pop down there even for a few hitters to break up the stagnant flow of garbage that sometimes filters during this contest. I mean, anyone, even the Hot Dog vendor up in the Upper Deck would make more sense at times than Phillips, and I bet he would do a better job just by simply sitting down in the chair.

I hear too much of Phillips wishy-washy mentality just during his “ESPN Baseball Tonight” telecasts, do I have to be subjected to him again during a fun and exciting event like the Home Run Derby?  So with that in mind, even thought the event is now over for this season, I would have loved to hear some banter from St. Louis broadcaster and baseball legend Al Hrabosky during that four hour span. He is not only a St. Louis folk legend and former Cardinal player, but a pretty entertaining and informed broadcaster in his own right. Plus, he has played in this style of game and knows what might be going on behind-the-scenes with better clarity than the present trio. 

Hrabosky has been up in the television booth for  13 straight seasons for the Cardinals doing the telecasts for FSN-Midwest. He started his broadcasting chops back in 1985 for the Cardinals doing telecasts on several different venues before finally finding his home on FSN-Midwest.  “The Mad Hungarian” would have been a instant hit for the fans watching at home who used to watch his antics on and behind the pitching mound during his playing career.

But also of note would have been the telling of stories by fathers and grandfathers watching the event parlaying tales of Hrabosky during his pitching career to their kids or grand kids watching this great  reliever legend relive the game with us.

That would bring a spark to the Home Run Derby. To bring a local broadcasting iconic figure into the broadcast team for the entire event would bring a new light of the game to other fans. Bringing baseball’s golden voices to the mic would be a great dramatic gesture to engulp us again in the pride and legends of the game with their additional stories and ad libs that would keep the audience interested even during a lull in the action at the plate.

Do not fret Phillips, I do not instantly dislike your mindless banter on this aged panel, but I want to All Star game to be about special instances and  great situations, not  about the tales I can hear from a guy I get to listen to, and ignore for 162 games a year on ESPN.

My picking of Hrabosky is no slight to the other broadcasters like Mike Shannon in the radio booth ,or even Jay Rudolph or Dan McLaughlin who are also great figures for the Cards. I am only trying to find the diamond-in-the-rough that will get people glued to the television, plus give the nation an opportunity to hear other broadcasters during the Home Run Derby.

Who knows, maybe in the 2010 event hosted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim we can get ex-player Rex Hudler or Mark Gubicza to come on board and bring some special Angels flavor to the Home Run Derby panel. 

And Joe Morgan, I love your stories…. sometimes, but maybe we need to hear someone else for a while who can keep me entertained and interested in the broadcast instead of me doing re-tweets and hoping for a commercial break so we can see something more exciting like a commercial instead of your constant re-hashing and speculations about each of the Derby hitters. I am beginning to see a pattern in your sight observations on the hitters. I have heard the same lines, but tweaked a bit left or right about hitters for the last few years by you on the ESPN Sunday Night games, and it is growing very old and tiresome to me.

So my idea to replace Morgan might be the best one yet.
You see, I am not voting for myself or another fan to replace Morgan, that would be too easy, but maybe MLB, which is spending millions of dollars on this 3-day festival can get ESPN to bend their rules a bit from their current mundane announcers to let maybe another MLB legend, or newcomer take the reins from Morgan for awhile. I am going to use the Rays Dewayne Staats as my example because I have some familiarity with his broadcast persona.

He is someone who will be the in the broadcaster wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame before his career is all said and done, and would be a  exciting breath of fresh air not only for the fans viewing the event, but to hear a voice that has called some of the most remarkable and memorable games during his long career.

To let the younger viewers, or even the older generation like me enjoy some of the voice around the league at that table would be an true All Star experience. Maybe if not Staats, then Seattle M’s  great voice Dave Niehaus, who was admitted into the broadcasters wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.  He is a voice that people on the east coast of the United States do not get to hear at all, and his booming voice would bring more energy and substance to the game knowing it is their national spotlight to shine and shoiw why they are one of the best ever to announce a MLB contest.

That is not to say I would not like to hear other new voices like Arizona’s Daron Sutton, who is in only his third year with the Diamondbacks. Each of these guys, even at their opposite points in their careers would be another taste of the MLB for each of the fans to savor during the All Star week. To bring about the change where the MLB audience gets to hear some of the voices and charisma that fans throughout the league get to hear each night might be a great influx of new energy and enthusiasm at the broadcast table during the Home Run Derby.

They are voices that do not get to be heard unless it is below a clip on the Internet or ESPN now. Or their voices get echoed around the playoff times for substantial calls or historic moments.

 
I have loved hearing Berman call games and events for year and years, but in that same statement, there lies the problem. Years and years….. I have also heard the same phrases rolled over and over until they should have a toe tag attached to them and delivered to a crematorium for burning. How many time last night did Berman try and elevate Albert Pujols to cult status during the broadcast even though he was involved in a 3-way tie in the first round. I mean come on, he was the home town favorite….How much pumping up do you really have to do to get the crowd involved…….Duh! 

But in comparison, in 2008 during this same event, Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton last deserved that level of praise. Players like Bobby Abreu also garnered that respect and attention a few years ago in the Home Run Derby, but Pujols was not the giant that night. After his first round 11 home runs, you really did not get the feeling the panel really was going for Prince Fielder until his semi-final round was complete. But the worst thing about last night was the odd comments or “fillers” being thrown around left and right by the enitre panel to fill air time.

There could have been better stories about players like the Rays Carlos Pena or even Ranger slugger Nelson Cruz that would have made you want to root for them. Like the fact Pena had a dream before the end of his first Spring Training with the Rays back in 2007, (he was a non-roster invitee) about getting on the team’s charter pflight for the trip to New York with his fellow Rays teammates for that first series against the Yankees.

Or maybe they could have brought up the pure fact about how an injury in the last Spring Training game to Rays DH Greg Norton opened the door wide for Pena to hit 101 Home runs since that moment in the major leagues. Or maybe  the panel could have dug a bit deeper and seen that Pena went from a non-issue minor leaguer with the New York Yankees system in 2006 to parlay his time with Rays into the 2007 Comeback Player of the Season, or how he escalated his game in 2008 and won the Silver Slugger award at First Base in the American League, or even boost his reputation more by winning a Gold Glove. The elevation of his game was the reason for his All Star selection, not just his current home run total. It was the mythical rise of the phoenix of his career from the bottom to the top.

Heck, I even got a few people tweeting I should do the broadcasting of the Derby. First off, I am honored, and I did take a aptitude test back at Eckerd College in 1976 that told me my two vocations that stressed my strengths was law and radio in that ord
er. But that is another chapter to discuss at another time. I have some ideas to maybe invite some fellow fans who love to broadcast to maybe be invited to participate in the on-air duties during the Taco bell celebrity and athletes softball game to give it a different flavor. Maybe that is the stage for me to  see the MLB break out of the norm and have a good time with it all.

I have to admit, I did have more fun watching rapper Nellie making his diving catches and seeing gymnast Shawn Johnson doing her rendition of Ozzie Smith’s flip during that game’s broadcast. It made me want to watch the annual softball game again next season. And that is new for me. I usually watch about 10 minutes of it all then click to something else, but last night I got interested. And no, it was not because I fell in visual lust/love again with Jenna Fisher from “The Office”.

The Home Run Derby was based on a 1959 show with the same title. That show evolved into the present day model we see during the All Star game. For this fan popular event to evolve more might take some hard stances by MLB with their broadcast partners, but for one night shouldn’t the event be about the broadcasters of the MLB and their premier hitters. A combining of the two forces both vocal and physical could bring about a renewed interest in the viewing of the Home Run Derby.

The All Star game will always be the focal point of the three days, but to elevate the Home Run Derby a bit would only bring more money and more exposure to other facets of the MLB. By letting other MLB broadcasters showcase their talents during the event would make someone in San Diego or even another country outisde the United States want to hear another game called by Boston Red Sox’s Jerry Remy or maybe even the Chicago White Sox’s Ken Harrelson. It would mean more revenue for the MLB through the MLB.TV packages, and also retain some interest of fans outside their current markets to maybe attend away games and boost attendance in some manner.

To expand the minds of baseball fans is not always an easy task, but for us to enjoy hearing some of the legends and growing talent around the league maybe call the Home Run Derby would be a deep, deep shot into the night and would be a solo shot for everyone involved with baseball.

It is now your choice MLB. You can take this advice and use it as your own, or you can just let the Derby stagnate until the viewership goes down and you do not know why. It is time for a change, and here I listed a few easy solutions, the rest is up to you. Do it for the fans. Do it for the International viewers. Do it for the expansion of the sport around the globe. Or like Nike loves to say………”Just Do it!”

Options for Broadcast changes to the Home Run Derby

 

Here we go again people, eight hours until all the fun starts all over again. But hopefully tonight;s game will not have that rambling and prognostic feel of last night’s State Farm Home Run Derby. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching a home run as much as the rest of us, but it did not have the same flavor this season for some reason. Not to say there was not a few majestic swats into the outfield caverns there at Busch Stadium.  There were a few blasts that evoked an awe factor from me watching on my big screen, but for some reason the anticipation and the true spectacle of it all was dulled for some reason.

I sat there and tried to remember, or even fathom why I felt this way until I heard the “back, back back!” thundered over my television screen by ESPN legend Chris Berman. It was then that it all finally began to click and fall into place. The event was not falling by the wayside for me, it was the stale and predictable audio coming out of the mouth of commentators Berman, Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, and former Met GM Steve Phillips. Sometimes I think they should instead maybe pick some of the great voices of the Major Leagues to come out and broadcast the Home Run Derby as a tribute to their announcing chops.

Locally here with the Tampa Bay Rays we have been blessed with a pretty good broadcast crew on both the television and the radio. But then again every city has that distinction. But maybe MLB can regenerate the enthusiasm and the bravado of the Home Run Derby by instituting a chance in the on-the-field staff to cover the event to maybe include  a member of the MLB family who usually only does their own local broadcasts. Not that I would not like to see Joe Buck maybe pop down there like he did last night, but he is reserved for the big game. I  am all for maybe one of the voices being from the home stadium crew, which would replace Phillips and do a better job just by sitting down in the chair.

I hear too much of Phillips just on “Baseball Tonight”, do I have to be subjected to him again during a fun event like the Home Run Derby?  So with that in mind, even thought the event is now over, we could have gotten  Al Hrabosky, who is not only a St. Louis folk legend and former  Cardinal player, but a pretty good broadcaster in his own right.

Hrabosky has been up in the television booth for the Cardinals now for his 13th straight season for FSN-Midwest. He started with the team back in 1985 doing broadcasts on several different venues before finally finding his home on FSN-Midwest.  “The Mad Hungarian” would have been a instant hit for the fans watching at home who used to watch his antics on and behind the mound during his playing career. But also of note would have been the telling of stories by fathers and grandfathers to the kids watching about this great  reliever legend.

That would bring a spark to the Home Run Derby. To bring a local figure onto the broadcast team for the entire event. It will also add a air of local pride and resources as this is their domain, and they know the nooks and crannies of Busch Stadium as well as the men who built it. They are there every day and would have additional stories and ad libs that would keep the audience interested even during a lull in the action at the plate. Do not fret Phillips, I do not instantly dislike you banter on the panel, but I want to All Star game to be about special instances and situation, not the one guy I get to hear 162 games a year and beyond every night on ESPN.

By me picking Hrabosky is no slight to the other broadcasters like Mike Shannon in the radio booth ,or even Jay Rudolph or Dan McLaughlin. I am only trying to find the diamond-in-the-rough that most people do not get to hear during their team’s broadcasts. Who knows, maybe in the 2010 event hosted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim we can get ex-player Rex Hudler or Mark Gubicza to come on board and bring some special Angels flavor to the Home Run Derby panel. 

And Joe Morgan, well I love your stories sometimes, but maybe you need to go for someone else who can keep me doing more than re-twitting and pausing away hoping for a break in the action to see some more exciting commercials than your re-hashed speculations about the Derby hitters. I am beginning to see a pattern in your observations on the hitters. I have heard the same lines, but tweaked a bit left or right about hitters for the last few years by you on the ESPN Sunday Night games, and it is growing old to me. So my idea to replace Morgan might be the best one yet.

You see, I am not voting for myself or another fan to replace Morgan, that would be too easy, but maybe MLB, which is spending millions on this 3-day festival can get ESPN to waiver a bit from their mundane announcers to let a current MLB legend or newcomer take the reins from Morgan. I am going to use the Rays Dewayne Staats only because I have some familiarity with him. He is someone who will be the in the broadcaster wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame before it is all said and done and would be a breath of fresh air not only for the fans to get another perspective, but to hear a voice that has called some of the most remarkable and memorable games.

To let the youth, and the older generation like me enjoy some of the voice around the league at that table would be an true All Star experience. Maybe if not Staats, then Seattle Mariners voice Dave Niehaus, who was admitted into the broadcasters wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.  He is a voice that people on the east coast of the United States do not get to hear, and would bring about more energy and substance to the game knowing it is their national time to shine.

That is not to say I would not like to hear others like Arizona’s Daron Sutton, who is in his third year with the Diamondbacks. Each of these guys, even at their opposite points in their careers would be another taste of the MLB for each of us to savor during the All Star week. To bring about the change where the MLB audience gets to hear some of the voices and charisma that fans throughout the league and America get to hear each night might be a great influx of new energy and enthusiasm at the broadcast table during the Home Run Derby. They are voices that do not get to be heard unless it is below a clip on the Internet or ESPN now. Or their voices get echoed around the playoff times for substantial calls or historic moments.

The third change might be the hardest for ESPN to imagine, but it might also be a great springboard for their broadcasters. Each segment of their network seems to have their gems, or up and coming guys/gals who have displayed their talents and the crowd has warmed to them during that season. Maybe the broadcaster who is considered their number one person that year, be it a newcomer or an old veteran gets a shot at the big time stage by sitting in Chris Berman’s chair.

I have loved Berman for year and years, but in that statement is the problem. Years and years I have also heard the same phrases rolled over and over until they should have a toe tag attached to them. How many time last night did Berman try and elevate Pujols to cult status during the broadcast even though he was involved in a 3-way tie in the first round.

Josh Hamilton last season deserved that praise, Bobby Abreu a few years ago also garnered that respect and attention, but Pujols was not the giant that night. After his first round 11 home runs, you really did not get the feeling the panel really was going for Prince Fielder until his semi-final round was complete. But the worst thing about last night was the odd comment getting thrown around left and right to fill air time.

There could have been better stories about players like Carlos Pena or even Nelson Cruz that would have made you root for them. Like the fact Pena had a dream before the end of the 2007 Spring Training with the Rays, where he was a non-roster invitee, about getting on the plane with the players for the first series against the Yankees. About how and injury in the last Spring Training game to Greg Norton opened the door for Pena to hit 101 Home runs since that moment in the major leagues.

Or maybe a short stint to show he went from a scrub and almost a non-issue minor leaguer with the New York Yankees system in 2006 to the 2007 Comeback Player of the Season, to a 2008 Silver Slugger in the American League, to a Gold Glover last season. The elevation of his game was the reason for his All Star selection, not just his current home run total. It was the mythical rise of the phoenix of his career from the bottom to the top.

Heck, I even got a few people twitting I should do the broadcasting of the Derby. First off, I am honored, and I did take a aptitude test back at Eckerd College in 1976 that told me my two vocations that stressed my strengths was law and radio in that order. But that is another chapter to discuss at another time. I have  some ideas to maybe invite  fellow fans who love to broadcast to maybe be invited to participate in the on-air duties during the Taco bell celebrity and athletes softball game to give it a different flavor. Maybe that is the stage for me to  see the MLB break out of the norm and have a good time with it all.

I have to admit, I did have more fun watching Nellie make diving catches and Shawn Johnson doing her rendition of Ozzie Smith’s flip. It made me want to watch the softball game. And that is new for me. I usually watch about 10 minutes of it all then click to something else, but last night I got interested. And no, it was not because I fell in visual love again with Jenna Fisher from “The Office”. I have had a TV crush on her since I first saw her, but that is fantasy people. Anyways, the Home Run Derby was based on a 1959 show with the same title. That show evolved into the present day model we see during the All Star game.

For this event to again evolve might take some hard stances by MLB with their broadcast partners, but for one night shouldn’t the event be about the broadcasters of the MLB and their premier hitters. A combining of the two forces both vocal and physical could bring about a renewed interest in the viewing of the Home Run Derby. The All Star game is still going to be the focal point of the three days, but to elevate the Home Run Derby a bit would only bring more money and more exposure to other facets of the MLB.
 

By letting their league broadcasters showcase their talents during the event would make someone in San Diego, California, or even another country want to hear a game called by Boston Red Sox’s  Jerry Remy or maybe the Chicago White Sox’s Ken Harrelson or Steve Stone. It would mean more revenue for the MLB through the MLB.TV packages, and also retain some interest of fans outside their current markets.

To expand the minds of baseball fans is not always an easy task, but for us to enjoy hearing some of the legends and growing talent around the league maybe call the Home Run Derby would be a deep, deep shot into the night. It is now your choice MLB. You can take this advice and use it as your own, or you can just let the Derby stagnate until the viewership goes down and you do not know why. It is time for a change, and here I listed a few easy solutions, the rest is up to you. Do it for the fans. Do it for the International viewers. Do it for the expansion of the sport around the globe. Or like Nike loves to say………”Just Do it!”

2009 State Farm Home Run Derby thoughts

 

Most people call it the “most exciting play in baseball.” I am talking about the one play that can make even a visiting crowd stand up and rise to their feet and cheer and celebrate the true nature of the play. No, it is not a around-the-horn ( 5-6-3 ) double play but the always exciting home run. It doesn’t matter if it is a solo shot or a Grand Slam, people love seeing that ball take its extreme flight path from home plate to its final resting place hopefully in someones hands in the stands.  It is a play that in one swing of the bat can take a game and transform it in so many different directions for the two teams involved in the contest.

It packs the essence of power, of skill and of will power all compacted  in that one solid swing against that little white ball. But it can also hold the hopes and dreams of winning with it’s majestic path towards the outfield walls. There is no other play in baseball that is held in such a high level of respect and admiration when it comes to hitting. 

So we have come to that point just beyond the halfway mark where we celebrate everything that is great about the long ball for one long night. The stage and the players have been set, and their game faces will be different tonight because they will get to also celebrate with fellow teammates and All Stars from both leagues sitting right there within eye sight of the participants.
 

At today’s media day, there will be a million questions thrown at the participants in this seasons State Farm Home Run Derby.  Some asking about totals, distance, or if they can hit the Mastercard banner and win someone some extra spending money for the week. But hopefully someone will remember to ask this one question, this one simple thing that could bring a bold smile to each of their faces. ” What is your motivation for tonight’s event?”

Some of those questions will merit unique answers that might take a player back several years into their past. Others might speak of recent injuries or events that have shaken their core and made them a better player.  And other might just see it as an opportunity to introduce themselves to the world’s audience as both a player and as a person.

The event had grown into a  huge precursor to the All Star Game itself. To say the  Home Run Derby event has taken on a life of its own would not be too far fetched at all. E Bay will be full of 2009 Home Run Derby balls on Tuesday morning, including the gold-colored balls used to escalate the fortunes of charities tonight. For some to be at the event is enough, to celebrate the act of the Home Run and see the cheers of the crowd will be like drinking 5 Amp energy drinks in a row. Sparks will fly, minds will wander and kids will fall all over the outfield trying to catch these hit balls.

Heck, I even took a gander over there today and saw a ball from the 2008 Home Run Derby signed by Hamilton up for bid right now at $ 169.99. But then again that is a “Buy now” option that might not be met. But there is a smattering of about nine past HR Derby balls from 2001 to 2005  all running under $ 40 right now.  It is great that this event has  elevated itself to its current stature in the 3-days events surrounding the All Star Game.

It is hard to even remember that this event might have been made possible by a simple television program stated in the 1960’s. The black and white “Home Run Derby” show was so popular in the 1960’s that it had to have spawned the current event. Even though these shows only pitted two of the best home run hitter of that season, it  did have a huge impact on the future of the art of hitting the long ball. I remember seeing a few dozen of these shows as a kid and trying to copy the swings in Little League. But you did try and copy them because they were your heroes and you wanted to see them blast the ball into the stands with every pitch.

And the Home Run Derby did not hurt its image last season when the world got to see the re-emergence of Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. From the  great personal story of Craig Counsel, his former AAU coach and personal Home Run Derby pitcher, to the struggles and demons Hamilton had to wash away to get back to this stage, it set up a heroes return to the game that impassions him from top to bottom.  And  his shattering of the events record books only goes to show that anyone can take the stage. But how many people remember that he did not win the event?

And America ate it up like a hot, creamy plate of mac & cheese. But it was also the kind of message that needs to be delivered to the youth of this country. That even if you hit rock bottom and the depths of despair, with a little faith and the courage to change, the world is at your feet.

But what will be the story this year?  Will it be another coming out party for another one of baseball’s stars. You know one of the great “feel good” stories will be the coming back from injury of Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, which  also rhymes with power, this season. The young catcher has been known for his scattering of hits and his placement of the ball in achieving his current AL leading .373 average. It will be exciting to see him bend his back and thrust that bat to produce some power tonight in the Home Run Derby.

It might also be one of the “coming out” parties I eluded to in the beginning of the blog. Most people associate him with hitting in general. With a good showing in the H R Derby, he will also put his name on you mind when you think of Home Run potential. It is another aspect of his hitting game that might not get the attention it deserves, before tonight’s event.

Then you have someone like the Tampa Bay Rays Carlos Pena, who had been tossed around the league for a few years from teams from the Rangers,Oakland A’s, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees before he got a non-roster invitee invitation to Spring Training in 2007 from the Rays. Pena  has always had the great glove, awesome power and the ability to pull a team together, but they had not all combined together at the same time before his stint with the Rays.

That spring in St. Petersburg, Florida his game came together and his power numbers have been impressive over the past 2 1/2 seasons. Pena has hit 101 homers with 282 RBI  since his Opening Day start for the Rays in 2007. To even hear the story of him dreaming he was going to be on the plane to New York for the opening series after Rays Manager Joe Maddon informed him he was going to Triple-A to begin the season is amazing. 

An unfortunate injury to Greg Norton opened the door for Pena to fly with the team to New York, and he has been with them ever since. Pena has a very natural home run swing, and the rightfield fence in Busch Stadium, which is 335 feet down the line, could play a major role in how he does tonight.  But when you see him lean back and swing through the ball you have the thought in your mind each hit could go over the wall. He has the ability to take any pitch and drive it, so tonight might make people remember his name.

Brandon Inge, here is a guy I have been pulling for all year long for the Detroit Tigers. He has more homers and RBI than Miguel Cabrera, but most people outside of the American League do not even know his name. Because of his pairing with Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino in the All Star Game Sprint Final Vote, he has been dubbed the front part of the “Bran Torino” pairing.

This former catcher, turned third baseman has been doing the same thing for years without the acknowledgments, but tonight he can also get his name out there for future shots at the All Star team. Hidden beneath the names of Magglio Ordonez and Cabrera, Inge has been the consistent power monger on the Tigers this season. With 21 homers and 58 RBI, he is showing his numbers fit right into the program for the Home Run Derby. He even hit two on Saturday night to maybe get some extra momentum going into tonight’s event.

The reason you have seen only AL names listed here is because of the recent video by Harold Reynolds that put all the focus on the NL first baseman getting ready to participate in the event tonight. I am not taking Adrian Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder or Ryan Howard for granted at all, but to single out the four first baseman and not even chat about the AL competitors is just wrong.

It is for that reason I want to see Mauer,Inge,Pena and Ranger Nelson Cruz slam the door shut on the National League guys. That is right, I want to see a barn burner where the AL comes out on top…again. I am sorry if it is Albert’s house, but it is our event to win tonight. By Reynolds putting that video out with so much emphasis on the NL and not a word about the AL is good old fashioned bulletin board fodder that will be eaten up by the AL participants.

Let the balls fly where they may, but I am going to throw out my final round prediction here: Mauer versus Inge for all the marbles. And if you want a great story, either one of these guys could win it all tonight. But the best part is all of us get to witness some awesome power tonight, and maybe another player will step from the shadows tonight and become another favorite of the world and of your kids.

 

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