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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins


Friday, July 16, 2004

The Best Seat In The House

When we last left our hero, he was being confused for a major league prospect by an actual major league prospect. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, read the previous column.

This is Part 2 of my All-Star weekend experience. The deuce. The sequel. Anyway, moving on...

After not getting into the Stuff party, I woke up on Monday, which is the day of the Home Run Derby (The Century 21 Home Run Derby, I should say. The sponsor shells out mad cash for that, plus I sat next to a friendly Century 21 employee on the shuttle bus after the Derby).

Derby Day began with a 9:30 meeting that was good mostly for the free breakfast that accompanied it. Also, I got to meet Chris Berman and Joe Morgan, who seemed initially reluctant to work with a lowly researcher like myself, but really were cooperative once you gave them exactly what they were looking for and explained why the info was worthwhile.

The biggest question I had about the Derby was what exactly I was supposed to be doing during the event. While I was in the dark on that, I looked up various things for the evening's proceedings, and when that was accomplished, I wandered over to FanFest to see if I could pick up an All-Star hat - fitted, of course.

FanFest was a freakin' zoo. The merchandise section featured one style of All-Star hat, which wasn't particularly great, but nothing too hideous either. However, unless you had an incredibly tiny head or you planned to wear your hat over a batting helmet, they didn't have your size. Of course I fell in the gaping middle there, so I left hatless. I settled for the stretch-fit hat that they were selling in the hotel lobby, which was perhaps 85 percent satisfactory.

Finally, I figured I should find out where the Worldwide Leader wanted me during the event instead of waiting for the word. So around 5:00 I headed down to the shuttle bus and made my way over to the park, where I was told to head down to the field. And once I got there, I was given a field access armband. So when the media horde watching batting practice was chased away so the Derby could commence, I got to stay on the field.

Not only was I on the field, I was leaning on the AL dugout rail, right next to the ESPN set. So every AL All-Star walked within an arm's reach of me on their way from the clubhouse to the field. More than once I looked up and found myself eye to eye with Pudge Rodriguez, or Curt Schilling, or David Ortiz, or another All-Star.

Part of the Derby proceedings involved the gathering of every living member of the 500 home run club. I thought this was going to be kind of hokey and contrived, but when they brought out all those sluggers - 14 of them, with over 8,000 combined home runs - it was incredibly impressive. Aaron, McCovey, Mays, Jackson, Banks, among others, and of course Michael Jack Schmidt.

Awesome.

Once the Derby actually started, someone waved me into the actual dugout so I wouldn't be blocking anyone's view. Of course, that was fine with me.

"No, it's no problem. I don't mind watching the Home Run Derby from the freakin' dugout!"

I played it cooler than that, though. Gotta act like I've been there before. Besides, the players were all watching from the field, and the dugout was filled with other media types.

Sitting right behind me in the dugout was Rafael Palmeiro's wife, who was smoking hot and dressed very elegantly. I found it extremely ironic that Palmeiro is hawking Viagra if he's going home to her.

But anyway, the Derby was a great event. Maybe it was my vantage point, or the insider's view I had, or all the background info I had researched, but I thought it was the best Derby I had seen. Then again, Miguel Tejada (who has "Miggi" sewn on his batting gloves - I know because he put them down on my laptop case) set records for most homers in a round and most total homers. And Lance Berkman electrified the home crowd by reaching the finals and hitting several shots out of the stadium.

So while the Derby was great, it will probably one day be topped. I know the seat I had will be impossible to beat, though.

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