Here we are at the All-Star Break again. The official mid-point of the season, also known as “The Week Without Baseball”.
OK, yeah, I know it’s only four days, but I figure that if MLB is allowed to promote the game as something larger and more important than it really is, then I can do the same for the break itself.
Anyway, last night was the Home Run Derby, which isn’t baseball, but is entertaining. MLB addressed my biggest complaint about last year’s event. The threshold to earn bonus time was raised from two 425-foot home runs to a pair of 440-foot shots. That was high enough to avoid making it a “gimme” and I’m fairly sure it influenced the results.
It’s a shame Madison Bumgarner wasn’t allowed to play. Note to MLB and the Players’ Association: nobody wants to see a separate pitchers-only home run derby. We just want to see MadBum launch a few. Let’s be honest–we don’t expect him to win. But watching him try? That’s entertainment. And he certainly couldn’t have done much worse than Robinson Canó’s pitiful seven home run performance.
When Giancarlo Stanton racked up twenty-four in the first round, everyone knew he was moving on, but darn it all, Robbie, couldn’t you at least have managed double digits?
Oh, well. Stanton’s performance was awe-inspiring; well worth the time spent watching a meaningless, made-for-TV entertainment extravaganza.
And, per my usual fascination with side issues: the kids in the outfield made some nice catches this year. Kudos!
The actual All-Star game is tonight. Real baseball, even if it doesn’t matter as much as MLB wants us to think it does.
And then we get two days without baseball.
Well, not really. Don’t forget the minors. The AAA All-Star Game is tomorrow, and if you’ve got the MLB Network on your cable or satellite lineup, that’ll be televised. And minor league play resumes on Thursday. It’s a great opportunity to hunt up your local minor league team and catch a game without feeling like you’re neglecting your major league team-of-choice.
Speaking of catching a game, I’ve been to a pair of minor league games this year.
July 5 was the San Jose Giants. I’ll spare you the pictures, since (a) I didn’t take any and (b) if I had, they would have looked a lot like last year’s.
Then, on the ninth, I went up to Sacramento, home of the River Cats. Until last year, the River Cats were the As’ AAA* affiliate. Now they’re affiliated with the Giants. But I didn’t go to root for the ‘Cats. Oh, no. Y’see, the Tacoma Rainiers, AAA affiliate of the Seattle Mariners were in town.
* For the uninitiated: AAA is the highest level of the minors. In theory, the teams are made up of youngsters who are almost ready for the majors. In practice, there are also major-leaguers reconditioning after injuries, and older players on the way back down.
Both the San Jose and Sacramento games were, by the way, followed by fireworks shows. That’s not a minor inducement. Ballpark fireworks are generally excellent.
Anyway, the River Cats game was
As promotions go, STARWARS Night is fairly harmless. A few gratuitous stormtroopers, Darth Maul throwing out the first pitch, and similar oddities don’t greatly detract from the Baseball Experience.
We had excellent seats.
Third row back from the Rainiers’ dugout. No protective netting, which made that sign at the lower right take on new layers of significance.
Odd. I’d never realized that women were at higher risk of injury from flying bats, but flying balls target men. I’d like to see the study that supports the theory. Anyway…
The highlight of the game, at least for Tacoma fans, was once-and-future Mariners’ catcher Mike Zunino. He went three-for-five with two home runs, drove in all five of the Raniers’ runs in a 5-3 victory, and–on a personal note–tossed this into the stands:
My first-ever game ball. It may not have come to me via a home run or a foul, but I really don’t care. Two people missed their catches, it came to me, and I’m thrilled.
Less thrilled: the kid sitting two rows in front of me, whose father was one of the people who missed the ball. He gave me one heck of a dirty look. I considered giving it to him–especially since he and his father were also rooting for Tacoma–but decided to keep it. Not only was it my first, but I thought the odds were good that he’d have another chance that day.
And I was right. A couple of innings later, his father missed another catch. That ball went to the father/son duo sitting just to their left.
Never fear, though, he didn’t go home disappointed. Not only did the kid’s father finally snag a ball for him in the eighth inning, but at the end of the game somebody in the Tacoma dugout slipped him a used bat.
Very well-used. Dented, scuffed, and with a large crack in the handle, it was obviously not a usable bat. But he was thrilled. And rightly so. He’ll be a fan for life, no doubt.
I confess to a modicum of jealousy, but I’m bearing up. Holding that ball is remarkably soothing. Thanks, Mike!
This is getting long, so I’ll let you go. You’ve got minor league tickets to order.
And Thursday I’ll check on my predictions for this year’s playoff teams. That should be exciting.