Results tagged ‘ Home Run Derby ’

All-Stars Under the Stars

All-Star Game, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.jpg

No, the Vice President of Red Sox Nation did not get a ticket to the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. Old friend Hank Steinbrenner never called. Neither did any of my other pals in New York. And as the day of the game approached, I dreaded the possibility of sitting on my couch and experiencing another baseball game on TV with the third grade-level commentary of Tim McCarver and Joe Buck. (Why doesn’t Remy ever get these national gigs, like he should? And doesn’t it make you laugh the way Joe Buck looks at the camera and smiles in precise 6-second intervals when McCarver is speaking?)

But my prospects brightened when I received an email from my son’s summer day camp: “Come watch the All-Star Game on an eight-foot screen under the stars — 7:00pm Kids’ Candy Ball, 7:30pm Kids’ Home Run Derby, 8:30pm Game Time. Popcorn, hot dogs, watermelon, and lemonade will be served. $5 per person.” Frankly, this sounded even better than a long trip to and from New York. And with all due respect to The House That Ruth Built, I’d have paid more for this “camp” baseball experience than for a front row ticket to Yankee Stadium from a scalper.

All-Star Game, candy ball.jpg

When I arrived at the All-Star event with my nine and six year-old sons, about 40 kids had gathered on the field for a game of “Candy Ball” — a game I had never heard of until then, which is odd because it’s just about the most enticing game for kids that’s ever been invented. The way this works is, one adult holds a tennis racket and whacks a tennis ball high into the air above a crowd of kids. All the kids gather under the ball as it dives towards Earth, smiles on their faces, then they all leap at the same moment to try to catch the ball. The player who DOES catch the ball (before it bounces) runs in and digs a piece of candy out of a big white bucket. (It’s a fabulous game for tall kids, and a really demoralizing one for short ones.)


All-Star Game, home run derby.jpg

Then came the Home Run Derby. With visions of Josh Hamilton in their heads, all kids got to take seven swings at slow lobs, and while most didn’t come close to hitting a baseball over the stone wall (perhaps 100 feet to the left and right field poles, and 150 feet to center), a few hit one to two dingers. My favorite moment was when my six year-old son took his whacks. He was (by far) the youngest kid there, but he stood up there and swung a heavy aluminum bat with all his might, and on his fifth swing he hit a line drive right back at the pitcher’s head (see photo). Pride and dignity swept over his face after that frozen rope.

The All-Star Game itself, the main event, was pretty cool. The kids and their parents gathered on a small grassy hill that looked down on a soccer goal, onto which a huge white sheet had been duct taped. A small silver box projected the game onto the sheet, and as the sky got darker and darker, the image on the sheet became sharper and sharper. A crowd of kids gathered at the very front and cheered loudly when Sox players were introduced. Of course, Yankees players were booed vociferously.

Three moments from the player introductions stand out. After the boos for Derek Jeter died down, I overheard one child wearing an Ortiz t-shirt say to the kid sitting next to him, “He’s

All-Star Game, francona introduction.jpgmy favorite Yankee, and I still hate him.” And when Kevin Youkilis was introduced, the whole crowd on the hill howled “YOOOOOOOOUK!” (What a stroke of luck for a player when he has a name that rhymes with “boo.” Remember the way we cheered for Lou Merloni? And when the fans ARE booing you, you can remain happily ignorant.) The most surprising moment during the team introductions was when Terry Francona trotted out of the Yankee Stadium dugout. He got the loudest cheers from the kids and adults assembled there — louder than Manny’s, louder than Youk’s, louder than Pedroia’s. The man is a true rock star.

Yeah, it would have been amazing to be in Yankee Stadium for all the farewell fanfare, to cheer for our hometown guys, and to see a great all-star game in person. But I was even happier being right where I should have been — with my kids, along with a herd of young Sox fans and their parents, sitting on a blanket about two miles from Fenway Park, under the full moon, watching the game on a bedsheet while munching on popcorn and watermelon, after a game of Candy Ball and a Home Run Derby.

“Is this Heaven?” Kevin Costner’s character asks his father in Field of Dreams. “No…. it’s Red Sox Nation. The heart of Red Sox Nation.”

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Why Kids Love Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton.jpg

All of us have read or heard about Josh Hamilton’s incredible story,
and last night, many of us were lucky enough to witness on TV his
stunning home run exhibition in the first round of the Home Run Derby
(in which he hit an amazing 28 home runs, a record).

Personally, I’m deeply inspired by Josh
Hamilton’s comeback from drug and alcohol addiction (as is Peter
Gammons, who writes so eloquently about the meaning of Hamilton
in his blog) and I’m rooting hard for his continued success. I only
wish he were on the Red Sox, so I could watch him play and cheer for
him every day.

But what I want to write about tonight is
the impact that Hamilton has had on my 9 year-old son. This kid is a
fiercely loyal Red Sox fan, and in his four years as an “aware” fan of
the game, Josh Hamilton is only the third non-Red Sox player he has
rooted for with passion (the others are Pedro Martinez and Nomar
Garciaparra). Why does he like Josh Hamilton so much? Two reasons:

Josh Hamilton at Fenway on Patriots Day 2008.jpg

1.
On Patriots Day, April 22, I took my two sons and a friend of theirs to
the Red Sox-Rangers game. Afterwards, they spotted a Rangers player
signing autographs near the Rangers dugout. “Daddy, can we run over
there and get his autograph?” Sure, you can try, I replied. I
hadn’t seen a player sign autographs after a game at Fenway Park since
I was a kid, in the late ’70s or early ’80s, and I could feel their
excitement about scoring a major leaguer’s autograph. They were at the
back of a large line of people, but the unknown Rangers player signed
and signed and posed for photos with anyone who was interested. By the
time my oldest son and his friend reached the front of the line, the
player had been signing for perhaps ten minutes, and he seemed to be in
no hurry to go take a shower.

He signed my son’s hat, then politely and calmly posed for a photo with my son and his friend. What do you say, I whispered. “Thank you,” my son said. You’re welcome, buddy, the player replied.
As we walked away, the player continued to sign autographs and pose for
photos. “Who was that?” I asked my son. “Josh Hamilton, see?” he
replied, showing me the autograph on the white brim of his Red Sox cap.

Josh Hamilton homemade all-star t-shirt2.jpg

The kids glowed all the way home, their Fenway experience having ended in a magical way.

2. Last night, Hamilton won our hearts
forever with monumental shot after monumental shot, his 71 year-old
former high school baseball coach pitching to him, and his proclamation
to FOX sportscaster Erin Andrews that he had dreamed the exact scene,
including being interviewed by her. “Mommy, come in here if you want to
see history being made!” my son yelled after HR number 25. He was
mesmerized. So was I. (Weren’t you??)

Today at my son’s day camp, the kids were
given t-shirts and invited to decorate them with
markers. When I picked him up in the late afternoon,
he was wearing a homemade all-star team replica shirt with the word
“American” scrawled across the front and the name “Hamilton” written in
block letters across the top of the back of the shirt. (Oops, Hamilton
isn’t #21, he’s #32…. details…) He wore the t-shirt

Josh Hamilton, back of homemade All-Star t-shirt.jpg

the rest of the
day, even while we watched seven Red Sox players compete in the
All-Star Game.

Hamilton’s improbable transformation makes
him a fascinating figure to the media and all of us adult fans, but
that side of the player means almost nothing to young baseball fans out
there. They love the guy for simple reasons — he’s a phenomenal,
graceful, exciting ballplayer, and he takes time to talk with them,
sign an autograph, and pose for a photo. With 750 major leaguers, it’s
remarkable that so few comprehend the profound influence they can have
on young people in this way.

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