Thursday, July 17, 2008

Going, going...gone!

We totally got our money's worth
at the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium
on Monday.

I don't know why I love sports (or videogames) so much, but I do. I always have. I have scared enough dates with my multi-sports knowledge and would make the characters on "My Boys" proud. So it should come as no surprise that when faced with the choice of spending my Monday night at Yankee Stadium watching the Home Run Derby or going to a fondue party with some friends I chose bats over dipping pots.

I have to admit the Home Run Derby idea didn't really interest me at first. I was much more interested in trying to get tickets to the All-Star game before I saw how expensive they were. Friend T and I were able to snag tickets for the Derby for under $200 each in the bleachers. Not cheap by any stretch, but still a pretty good deal. The same seats were $500 each for the All-Star game. When faced with the prices, we chose Monday's Derby.

One we got to the Stadium, I was thrilled with our choice. The weather was great, and we got there early enough to see All-Star batting practice. Our bleacher seats were in left field, which we knew would drastically reduce our chance of catching anything with right field's short porch. But the right field bleacher creature section was much more expensive. It didn't matter -- we got to our section just as A-Rod smacked a 425-foot home run right at us. If we'd been more heads up about it we probably could have at least made a play for the ball.

The picturesque sky over Yankee Stadium
during the 2008 Home Run Derby.

We watched Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday (my personal fave) belt carefree homers to all fields as I wistfully pretended that the Derby had already started. Besides Justin Morneau and Berkman I didn't really recognize any of the Derby competitors and it was kind of a bummer. It was almost enough to make me wish Jason Giambi had been voted in as the 32nd man (he promised to take part in the Derby if voted into the All-Star game).

After an hour of downtime, which T and I spent leering at the ESPN crew just to our right and watching the sky turn various shades of pink and purple as the sun set (gorgeous) it was finally time to start the damn thing. We endured Michael Kay trying to excite the crowd, a mini-concert by 3 Doors Down and someone singing the national anthem and then finally Dan Uggla of the Marlins stepped to the plate.

The first round was fun if unremarkable until the Rangers' Josh Hamilton came to the plate. The crowd has been giving polite applause to the competitors, but once Hamilton got going it became clear something amazing was happening. We knew it when one of his early homers run the back of the right field bleachers, and then the next one came within 20 feet of the "Hit it here and win $1,000,000" sign. The jaded crowd woke up, and soon after Hamilton went on a run of 13 straight homers without an out. It was ridiculous. We were all chanting "Ham-il-ton, Ham-il-ton" which is amazing considering 1 - he plays for another AL team and 2 - Yankees fans don't chant for players on other teams under any circumstances.

When Hamilton's 10 outs were spent, he'd broken the single-round record set by current-Yankee-then-Phillie-Bobby Abreu and outhomered the other 7 contestants by at least 11 runs each. The second round become something of a let-down as a result, and the finals were even worse because Hamilton didn't even win the Derby! (This was because the homers total resets itself in the finals, and Hamilton was either exhausted or had cooled.) I didn't know Hamilton's back story or pretty amazing comeback story. I wish I'd known about his dream of hitting a HR Derby out of Yankee Stadium because he came pretty damn close. Suffice it to say I am now a fan...and it certainly doesn't hurt that he's pretty cute!

But man what a friggin' awesome night. Whenever I go to a Yankees game my favorite part is seeing home runs. On Monday night we saw over 50 of them. At the end of the day, the All-Star game is just another baseball game. But the Home Run Derby is a special, unique event that is different and exciting every time. I am so glad I got to see it live. Seeing it in the last year of Yankee Stadium's existence only made it that much better. Just don't ask how much I spent on swag after.

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