This was the sixth time I’d ever been to the Home Run Derby, and it was the first time that I brought a videographer, so yeah, prepare yourself for some YouTube action.
I arrived at PETCO Park way too early and took a seat on the ground, leaning against the gates. This was my view (looking back out at the street):
Inside the stadium, there was a countdown clock for the All-Star Game:
Yup, I had lots of time to kill, but that was fine. I made some phone calls, listened to music, ate a sandwich, read the news, ignored social media, and photographed Mark Melancon standing around:
Look who else I saw walking down the street:
That was Clayton Kershaw. No one noticed him (or rather, no one approached him) and I’m sure he loved it.
By the time the stadium opened, there was quite a crowd:
When PETCO finally opened, I caught up briefly with my friend Devin for the third time in a month. Here he is:
Devin attends every Home Run Derby and All-Star Game. I think I might need to start doing that too.
Did you notice that batting practice hadn’t yet begun? By the time the American League started hitting, the stadium was already getting crowded. I had decided to focus on getting toss-ups during BP, and things got off to a good start. Here I am (wearing a Blue Jays cap) getting a ball from Edwin Encarnacion:
It was a Futures Game ball:
Allow me to quote myself from the video: “I actually don’t count balls from the Futures Game itself, but if I get one at the Derby or the All-Star Game, then that does go in my official Major League Baseball collection, so I’m pretty psyched to have gotten this one.”
Leigh caught one soon after, and we compared. His was brand new and mine (already protected in a ziploc bag) was mud-rubbed:
A few minutes later, I jumped and caught a toss-up from Dellin Betances:
That was also a Futures Game ball, and I handed it to this kid:
As it got more crowded, it seemed there were half a dozen arms/gloves reaching for every ball:
My third ball was thrown by Marco Estrada. It was another Futures Game ball, and I’m sorry to say this, but I was kind of annoyed. Poor me . . . I know. But seriously, I wanted a Home Run Derby ball, and I was hoping to get one during BP so that I wouldn’t feel extra pressure to catch one during the Derby itself.
Here’s Zach Britton throwing me my fourth ball of the day:
That ball and the one I got right after from Aaron Sanchez were both All-Star Game balls! Check it out:
My sixth ball was tossed by a player’s kid — not sure who. And guess what? It was another All-Star Game ball.
That’s when the National League started taking BP:
Here’s what it looked like on my right:
My seventh ball — another of the All-Star Game variety — was thrown by a guy with “MACKAY” on his jersey:
Does anyone know who that is?
Meanwhile, where were the Home Run Derby balls? Those are usually the easiest ones to get at these midsummer events, and All-Star balls are the toughest. Last year in Cincinnati, there were no All-Star balls during BP, and as a result, I never got one. The same thing happened at the 2007 All-Star Game in San Francisco, and I’m still bummed about it.
Even though Todd Frazier plays in the American League, his kid was roaming the outfield during National League BP, and he threw me my next two balls. Those were both All-Star balls, and I gave them both away.
Toward the end of BP, Clayton Kershaw walked over to say hello to someone, so I reached out for a fist-bump:
As he walked past, he looked up at me . . .
. . . and then said, “Hey, you’re the guy that gets all the balls.”
(His voice is a bit faint in the video, but you can definitely hear him if you pay close attention.)
“That’s me!” I replied, resisting the urge to thank him for the three balls he’d thrown to me over the years.
That was the end of our exchange — short and sweet.
There were lots and lots and lots of Cubs players in San Diego. Here they are posing with Harold Reynolds:
In the photo above, from left to right, the Cubs are Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, and Dexter Fowler.
Here’s Zobrist tossing me my 10th and final ball of BP:
That was another All-Star ball, and I handed it to the littlest kid behind me:
After BP, I wandered through the center field concourse . . .
. . . and ended up here:
I grabbed some food and ate while Fall Out Boy performed two songs. This was my view from the “Park at the Park” in deeeeeeep right-center field:
Just before the Derby got underway, I stopped by a merchandise tent and bought an All-Star Game t-shirt (which cost so much that I’m truly ashamed of myself). You’ll see the shirt in my next entry/video, so for now, I just want to show a minor goof in the tent’s display case. See if you can spot it:
Post your answers and guesses in the comments section. I’ll reveal it there if no one gets it right.
Here’s the spot that I picked for the Derby:
It would’ve been nice to have more space, but then again, it would’ve been nice if that staircase had stayed empty. Here’s what the section looked like on my left:
Before long, the staircase was packed:
I truly had no room to maneuver, so I knew fairly early that I didn’t have a great shot at catching a home run. The good news, however, was that five of the eight participants were right-handed, and after the first round, all three of the lefties were eliminated.
The MLB Network had an entire suite/balcony on my right. How many people can you identify in the following photo?
Giancarlo Stanton put on an absolute display during the Derby, but everyone was launching baseballs all around me. I kept coming close, but just didn’t have luck on my side. My videographer (not Brandon — a different friend named Jeff) did a great job of capturing the action and the excitement of being right in the thick of it. Here are four screen shots of fans holding up baseballs:
In the four-part image above, did you notice me on the lower right? I was sooooo close to that ball, and look at it! It was one of those new crimson balls:
You know who else nearly caught a home run? Charlie Sheen. Here he is enjoying the attention from the crowd down below:
Stanton and Mark Trumbo hit some COLOSSAL home runs that sailed completely over the seating area of the 2nd deck and landed in a packed standing-room section up above. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but even in the back half of the 2nd deck, I was positioned too shallow. One of Stanton’s shots was estimated at 497 feet; one of Trumbo’s hit the jumbotron!
The final round featured Stanton versus Todd Frazier. This was my view:
Jeff took a photo of me from below as I joked with a guy about who had the better angle to reach for a ball:
Here’s a screen shot of me buried in the crowd:
There really wasn’t any other place worth hanging out — at least not where I was allowed to go.
And that was it.
Stanton won the whole thing with grand total of 61 home runs! It was an epic performance. Simply being there was exciting, and of course I was glad to have snagged a bunch of commemorative BP balls, but I couldn’t help feeling bummed about not catching anything during the Derby. I feel like I did everything right. I picked a good spot in the best section. I just didn’t have much range, and like I said, I didn’t have good luck. It happens.
Here are the six balls I kept:
Time for me to start thinking about the 2017 Home Run Derby in Miami, but in the meantime, here’s the video from this one. Enjoy!
• 10 baseballs at this game (six pictured here because I gave four away)
• 477 balls in 58 games this season = 8.22 balls per game.
• 156 balls in 15 lifetime games at PETCO Park = 10.4 balls per game.
• 39 balls in six lifetime Home Run Derbies = 6.5 balls per game.
• 1,224 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 84 different commemorative balls
• 9,110 total balls
My fundraiser for Pitch In For Baseball is now in its eighth season. Once again, people are pledging money for every home run ball that I snag during games. Here’s some info about the fundraiser, and if you donate, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.
• 14 donors for my fundraiser
• $123.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $618.85 raised this season
• $191,122.51 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009