Wednesday, July 12, 2006

There May Still Be Some Balls Lingering in the Allegheny: Field Trip to the 2006 Home Run Derby

There are some events better attended than watched on television. Hockey would be the most popular sport in the world if they could somehow channel the experience of being there through television, but they cannot, and thus it fails. Baseball and basketball games are equally enjoyable whether you’re there or not, while football is a sport almost better enjoyed from the comfort of one’s own home, save for when you’re in the middle of a packed student section with a very subjective view of the game.

Well, you can add the Home Run Derby to the list of events that’s significantly better to attend in person as opposed to watching on television, especially when it’s held in the gem of a venue that is PNC Park. I’m not sure what was more entertaining: the actual battering of baseballs into the kayak-defended Allegheny, or seeing all of the out of town fans enjoying their walk across Clemente Bridge, their Primanti Bros sandwiches and their Iron City beer. Although the Pirates are a deservedly maligned franchise, this All-Star Weekend could not have been a better showcase for the glory of the North Side.

I really should give credit to Dill for making a success of this event, as the bloated, Berman-tainted 2005 edition that put us both to sleep had me ready to sell my ticket, and then once inside, just find the first leaning spot we could to watch. But Dill insisted we power through, and after being rejected by a few of the ushers in left field, we successfully found ourselves right behind the left field bleachers and in perfect territory for the right-handed hitters to mash some homers tantalizing close to us (Miguel Cabrera and David Wright tried particularly hard to reward us with a free souvenir). In order to preserve our seats, we became usher assistants, moving people out of positions that might potentially draw the attention of the aisle guardians to us.

Note the red arrow, which seemed bigger in Microsoft Paint...err...PhotoShop.

Perhaps the best part about being at the Derby is that instead of having to hear Chris Berman saying “Back back back back back…” five dozen times, you have Gary Thorne calmly MCing things, keeping track of outs and distances without the use of a thousand annoying catchphrases (“You’re with me, leather?”). The crowd’s obvious favorite was Big Papi, David Ortiz, who didn’t fail to put on a show, barraging the river with near-500 foot dingers. As talented as the Red Sox DH is, he seemed sort of old in the final four that consisted of three 23-year olds – Wright, eventual champ Ryan Howard and three-time All Star Miguel Cabrera. If those three are prominently involved in the future of America’s past-time, we are all in good hands.

Now some pictures to wrap up the evening, which could have only been better if one of Howard’s ripped through the netting in centerfield and struck Joe Morgan in the back of the head…

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