Wednesday, July 16th, 2008...11:32 pm
All Stars out of a possible All Stars
For whatever reason they don’t usually award NYC with big time sports events these days. Think about it. No recent love for all star games, super bowls, Final Four’s or Olympiads. I’m not trying to complain. I’d take the NYC sports world over any other city in the world (Titletown USA be damned!). But it was exciting that MLB got it right and decided to have the Yankee’s host the 2008 All-Star Game in the final season at the stadium.
Over the past few months I’ve made a valiant attempt to land some tickets for the All-Star festivities. But the prices were super inflated and there seemed to be few spare tickets floating around. I was leaking money from my trip to Vegas last weekend so didn’t much have the appetite to scalp either. It seemed like I was going to miss out on the awesomeness.
Monday morning I dragged my poorer and jet lagged self into the office and remembered that VitaminWater was putting on a special event at Chelsea Piers called “Homers In The Hudson“. Too fried to work I hit up my pals at CBS College Sports and convinced them to meet up with me.
The first two hundred people at the event were given the opportunity to hit a baseball off of a tee into an inflatable five foot high glove that sat on top of a 25-foot-high giant VitaminWater bottle that was floating on a barge in the Hudson River 150 feet away from the tee. Inside the inflatable glove there was a small hole. Hit it threw the hole and you could win yourself one million bucks.
Here’s an photo to help you picture it…
I’m not sure if this sounds difficulty but it’s pretty near impossible. You probably have a better shot of hitting a hole in one form 250 yards out or guessing a number between one and a million (if you said 234,321 you are right!!!)
I decided to go splitzy at 500K with my buddy Jaquet if either one of us did it. I also pledged to strip butt naked and jump into the Hudson to celebrate. I then told intramural All-Star Blake that he was going to miss the ball, hit the tee and send it into the water ruining the event for the rest of us.
Jaquet’s swing was respectable but fell a bit short. I hit a solid shot that had the distance and height but was pushed out to the left. Alas, look at that text book weight transfer!
Finally, the last person in our group, Big Petey, stepped up to the plate. His swing looked perfect and as the ball traveled through the air I started tapping Jaquet on the shoulder. It felt like watching a perfect golf shot that was dead on the flagstick. The ball landed in the glove just a few feet away from the actual hole. The place went crazy and VitaminWater reps were all over Pete who won a $100 prize and a sweet mention in this SI.com article.
There was also a bunch of celebrities at the event. David Wright swung for about ten minutes and didn’t even come close to the glove. Joba showed up and unfortunately has turned into a stuck up ass. I was standing next to him in the VIP room and asked him to sign a ball. He just looked at me and then his rep said he wasn’t signing. As he was walking out two little kids ran up to him and he just ignored them. Max Kellerman was doing his radio show and by his stare and jaw grinding might have been two molly’s deep. The rapper Fabulous was the only other person to hit the glove and also won $100. Petey and Fabulous – go figure.
As I returned to the office one of my interns asked if he could leave early to go scalp his tickets to the Home Run Derby. I convinced him to take me to the event instead for a few bucks, a slice of pizza and beer on me all night.
I was almost as curious to check out the Derby as I was the actual game. I’ve always been enthralled by the tale of Mickey Mantle’s shot that hit the façade (on the way up!) and that no player has ever hit it out of the stadium. It very well might be impossible as the ball would have to travel close to 600 feet to have any chance but I wanted to see how close.
The first few hours of the derby were incredibly boring. I was sitting in the loge section to the left of the leftfield foul pole so had little chance of catching a ball. This year they decided to go with leadoff hitters, rookies and journeymen. All of a sudden the derby has become the uncool thing to do. I think it has to do with Abreu hitting 41 home runs a few years a go and then transforming into a slap hitter. (If I was still in Vegas I would double down that that was caused by the fact he was taking more steroids than Big Brown rather than his swing being ruined…)
So just as I was about to write off the HR contest as a phony made for TV event Josh Hamilton stepped up to the plate and blew the place away. I was in total awe. It seemed impossible that a human could hit it as far as he was. When he nailed the Bank Of America sign I started to think he had a chance to hit one out. Hamilton has come a long way in the last few years and for a few moments he had the entire Yankee Stadium captivated and as giddy and excited as me thinking I was going to get Joba’s autograph. Hamilton ended up losing to Justin Moreneu in the finals but it didn’t matter. He put on a show that made the night worthwhile.
As for the actually midsummer’s night classic I loved it. I like the home field advantage rule. It get’s these guys to play seriously and play for each other. I love the idea of an All-Star game. All the best players playing together – there’s something cool and pure about it. Webb and Kazmir pitching on one day rest after throwing over 100 pitches each was great. Watching Dan Uggla play like a dog was painful but fun. Actually learning that Nate McLouth, Corey Hart and Dioner Navarro are real people and not just annoying fantasy figments was kind of nice as well. And after all those innings, to see the American League win yet again is just a bit freaky. Even the Wall Street Journal had an article trying to figure out why the National League sucks so much at baseball.
My one bittersweet epiphany throughout the entire week was that I’m really going to miss Yankee Stadium. Yeah, I’m sure the new one will be swell but this is the place I grew up. The place where I saw Pat Kelly’s first career Home Run. The stadium where I saw Juan Gonzalez drop two fly balls in one game his rookie year as my dad and I watched in amazement trying to figure out if he was the worst player in history. The ballpark I somehow saw Teddy Higuera pitch multiple amounts of time and Dave Mlicki shut out the Yanks in the first inter-league game ever. I saw Piazza beaned in the head, Hideki hit a walk off and Donnie Baseball throwing grounders to warm up his infielders. I’ll miss it all (especially the chicken fingers by third base).