It’s the All-Star break, so forgive me if I take a moment to do an article on something a little bit more general. Besides, I’d kind of like to wipe the taste of that White Sox series out of my mouth for a moment. There is plenty of time remaining in the season to talk more Royals.
Last night was the Home Run Derby and David Ortiz won. Some of you watched and some of you didn’t (Craig said he wasn’t going to watch, but I still don’t believe him). The derby is something that gets a lot of criticism, and honestly most of it is deserved. But like almost everything other than the speed of light, it’s relative.
Let me step back for a moment. The All Star game and all of the related activities such as the Home Run Derby and the Futures Game are played at Angels Stadium this year, so there has been lots of looking back at the last game played there in 1989. That game was memorable for Royals fans because Bo Jackson hit a towering shot in the first at bat for the American League and was named MVP. In 1989 I was 10 years old, so I was basically in my prime for baseball worship and that was one of the highlights of my entire Royals fandom. Honestly, it still is. Yeah, I was at the 1985 World Series, but I didn’t really get what was going on, heck I barely remember it. The Royals have never been in a playoff game since then, so highlights (as you all know) have been hard to come by. Last night Bo threw out the first pitch and I thought to myself “Wow, how cool would it have been if they had the Home Run Derby when Bo was playing?” Think about that, it would have been spectacular particularly to any young Royals fan.
Back to the relative nature of the Home Run Derby. If you are like me, you read all kinds of baseball articles and blog posts. I read articles from Padres beat writers, Rockies bloggers, Tigers fans, prospect watchers, satirists, historians, stat gurus, geniuses, writers I loathe, writers I respect and every other angle that one can possibly fathom. I always felt that I had an amazing cross section of baseball opinions represented, until last night. With all of the unique voices writing about the game today, nobody captures that of the 10 year old fan. And THAT is who the Home Run Derby is for.
I remember as a young kid watching re-runs of that old home run derby show from the 50’s on ESPN and l loved it. I remember wishing that I could see the great power hitters of that day like Will Clark, Andre Dawson and Bo Jackson do the same thing. Going back and watching that old show now just doesn’t seem that great. Like the current home run derby, it’s kind of boring with little nuance, strategy or the million other things that make a real baseball game great. But most 10 year olds don’t really appreciate nuance and strategy and the subtleties of the game the way someone can with a couple of decades more experience. That’s why we don’t let them drink, drive or get married.
Just imagine what a blog post from a 10 year old fan regarding the Home Run Derby would be like: (I wish I knew a 10 year old, I would have absolutely let him/her write this part):
OH MAN! Did you see the Home Run Derby last night?!? Big Papi hit a ton of home runs and they went far. That was so awesome. Hanley Ramirez, that guy from the Marlins smashed huge home runs off of the rocks and stuff out in center field. It was soo cool. Oh, and did you see that one ball hit the camera guys and those kids falling all over the place trying to catch the balls? I totally could have caught those balls. Oh yeah, and that guy with the beard, that was sweet.*
*I apologize if I am not giving enough credit to the writing abilities of a 10 year old. It’s been awhile since I have been one and don’t exactly recall my writing skills at that point.
Just imagine how great you would have thought it was at that age. And quite frankly, in the eyes of Major League Baseball, aren’t they the most important fans? Not just in a Saturday Evening Post, aww-shucks-do-it-for-the-kids kind of way, but because they are future customers. Hooking a 10 year old on baseball is as lucrative as it gets. They are the fans who will have a lasting memory of this Home Run Derby, or tonights All Star game. I think sometimes we get too caught up in what would make an event most pleasurable for us, without thinking of the thousands and thousands of younger fans.
So while the complaints regarding the Home Run Derby are all valid, it’s because we are looking at it through the lens of adulthood and comparing it to the actual game of baseball, which is foolish. If the Home Run Derby were as good as or better than an actual game of baseball wouldn’t we just play that instead? Sometimes it is easier than others, but especially with regards to the All Star Game festivities, we could probably all just harken back a little bit to when we were 10 year old fans. I think we might have a new appreciation for some of this stuff.