Derby Dazzled Dedicated Dinger Devotees

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Finally the archaic days of dinger derby’s without buzzer beaters or brackets are over. MLB took the two most exciting aspects of basketball and incorporated them into an event about grown men hitting leather balls with large pieces of dead trees. Last night’s home run derby finally elicited the excitement of baseball fans everywhere. For my few years as a fan the home run derby has been a night where hardcore baseball fans angrily watch three hours of Chris Berman aggressively shout the word ‘back’ while complaining about the futility of the night..

But enough about Boomer and his hair, last night was the start of something beautiful. Gone are the days where derby contestants watch pitch after pitch casually pass them by without a care in the world. This new fangled technology the kids are calling a shot clock creates urgency in the derby as well as drama. This time crunch increases the feeling that this derby is actually a competition between some of the world’s greatest athletes rather than just some dudes hitting a ball really far with a heavy stick. Todd Frazier actually cared about finishing in second last year and wanted to redeem himself in his home stadium by bringing a previously meaningless trophy to Cincinnati.

This exciting home run derby will bring new blood into the baseball fandom that so desperately needs young fans. I’m all for changing up the home run derby if it makes the night more exciting. There is no integrity of the history of the derby that would be destroyed by some rule changes. Besides, this derby is purely for entertainment value so who cares if they have a shot clock or brackets? Heck I’d even be down for giving the participants aluminum bats and seeing Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Gallo hit baseballs over to Kaz Yamazaki in Tokyo. By the way the 2016 All-Star game will be played in San Diego where Joey Gallo did this as a high schooler.

Prince Fielder was eliminated in the first round and I didn’t even care, that’s how much I loved this derby. There were some awesome moments in this competition like Albert Pujols‘ masterful first round winning shot. Or there was Todd Frazier’s first round buzzer beater, along with his second rounder and also his title winner. All these were phenomenal, however my favorite moment was when Pujols appeared to step back in the final second of the 2nd round to allow Joc Pederson to advance. Pujols and Pederson both have a close family member with Down Syndrome. You can read more about their encounter in this piece by Tim Brown for Yahoo and it’s pretty darn moving.

Despite my glowing praise of the derby I still have some suggestions for improvement. Number one: add another clock behind home plate so the pitcher might have a sense of urgency. Number two: add a Joey Gallo to the event and watch him hit one 600 feet. That’s not an exaggeration I honestly believe when Gallo is a part of this event he will hit a ball 600 feet. Number three: I liked the idea of having brackets but I’d like to see the seeding improved. There is no reason Prince Fielder should be a 7 seed, I don’t care that he has less than 15 homers, the guy is an absolute monster. Number four: (and most importantly) please change the broadcast crew. You can keep an audio cue of Chris Berman incoherently shouting back back back for comedic value but go find some articulate folks that know a great deal about hitting then go put them on air. I’d suggest Ryan Parker and other members of #hittingtwitter. Also why not the Cespedes Family Barbecue boys. Or if you’re interested ESPN, I’m available for next year’s derby if you let me know in advance.

My bottom line is that last night Major League Baseball took a big stride towards getting new fans excited about baseball with the rule changes to the home run derby. Yes there are still some kinks to be ironed out to make this event more eventful but last night was an awesome first step. Thank you Rob Manfred and thank you Todd Frazier for an awesome night, and I can’t wait to come back back back next year.

Brice Paterik
Brice is a Junior Journalism major at Texas Tech University in pursuit of a career in Sports Journalism. Growing up in Dallas his whole life, Brice has been a Rangers fan since before he batted against a machine. He's a sucker for a high ceiling athletic prospect without a hit tool or 20 year olds who throw 100 mph and can't hit the zone. He over values every prospect and is a hopeless romantic for baseball. She's broken his heart a million times but he will always come back for more.

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