July 9, 2012
2012 State Farm Home Run Derby and a personal account on how I became a fan of this event.
Baseball has always been a part of my life. I, like most kids with older brothers was turned onto the American Pastime while going to his Little League / All Star Games as an uninterested 3-6 year old. I say uninterested because, between the ages of 3-6, like most kids that age, I had the attention span of a gnat. How could any mother expect me to sit in the bleachers all day and watch 11-12 year old's play baseball. Naturally I ventured off into the woods with the other kids my age and lost my stuffed animals I carried around everywhere I went (I went through about 4 of these stuffed animals due to baseball related tragedies).
Around age 5 it became my turn to take to the diamond and start developing the love for the game that I still have to this day. Tee-Ball was fun, but if it weren't for the ball already sitting on the tee, I probably wouldn't have swung to hit the ball. Much like my days in C league when I walked more then I swung the bat that season. My on base percentage that year was through the roof, but I probably batted .091 for the season because I was unable to pull the trigger. I muddled around in C league and later B league when something finally clicked in my head. "Hey Ben, you need to swing the bat to hit the ball!" DING DING DING - naturally my baseball career took off at a historic rate. This was around the same time the St. Louis Cardinals acquired the steroid infested, yet super heroic god named Mark McGwire.
I want to preface this next part of this post by saying, my dad was raised in St. Louis and somehow let my brother get away with being Braves/Orioles fan. I suppose my father took upon himself to not let his 2nd born leave the ranks of the Cardinals, so he turned me on the '98 Sosa vs. McGwire homerun-a-thon and that is where my baseball life changed.
Obviously, at age 10, I was entranced. Watching modern day behemoths crush balls into the night sky on a regular basis would turn any 10 year old into a fan of the game. The fact that it was happening on my dads favorite team, against his least favorite team (the Cubs) made it even more of a mind blowing, life altering, landmark moment for me. It was settled, I was a Cardinal fan for life, however my own little league career turned out to be modest at best, as I tried to emulate my heroes to no avail.
It wasn't until the following year, when the All-Star game burst onto the scene in the famed Fenway Park in Boston. My family along with another family were down in the Outer Banks for our annual beach vacation. It rained literally every day for the first 4 or 5 days, its hard to be certain, as it was about 13 years ago to the day. We were couped up in the cottage, the mom's had already ventured to bed, which left Me, my dad, my brother, the other dad, my best friend, and his brother watching the homerun derby, and I had a horse in the race, his name.... Mark McGwire. What followed was the most awe inspiring/hilarious to this day, moments of my life. McGwire proceeded to crush 16 homeruns that night and after each one my dad would scream, "BOOM, GOT ALL OF THAT ONE" and while he was screaming that, Chris Berman (my favorite sports caster) would be painting his picture, and we would all be laughing at my dad, and it was at this point my dad would say, "SSHH, what'd he say?" To this day my dad catches enormous amounts of shit about this moment, but he takes it like a champ and seems to have embraced it. Needless to say, It was a landmark moment for me, and to this day, I have watched each of the homerun derby's and traded texts with my best friend reading, "boom, got all of that one" on a regular basis.
Baseball has this kind of an affect on kids. They say chicks dig the long ball (which is true), but I am willing to say that kids dig the long ball more. 1998 turned into 1999 which in turn, turned into me having 1 favorite professional sports team in the St. Louis Cardinals, and the joy of watching MY team win not one but two World Series.
So, here I sit tonight, watching the Homerun derby, where yet again I have a horse in the race with Carlos Beltran, and I am still in awe of the power these guys have. Mark Trumbo hit one on the roof in left field. ESPN said it would have gone 475 ft had it not been stopped by a gigantic bud light sign. They are about to start round 2 and somewhere, some kid is watching this in Toronto and is turning into a life long fan because his favorite player, Jose' Bautista, just crushed 11 homeruns. He is probably watching with his father, and they are having a moment only a baseball fan can understand and appreciate.
Until next time happy readings, and goodnight!