You can have the NBA three-point contest and entire NFL Pro Bowl weekend. I’ll take the Home Run Derby.
Of all the exhibition events in sports, there isn’t anything quite as entertaining as MLB All-Star weekend’s marquee contest. Forget the game. People dig the long ball.
The All-Star game has its merits—especially with the added importance of determining home-field advantage for the World Series—but even with the changes, the game is still just an exhibition. You can’t paint a horse and call it a zebra.
There’s no mistaking this animal, though. The Home Run Derby is everything Major League Baseball markets it is. If you want to see eight mashers doing their best to knock the cover off some baseballs á la Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez in The Sandlot, you’ve come to the right place.
Need more incentive to watch the Home Run Derby? Let’s do it by the numbers.
41 - Bobby Abreu’s Home Run Total in 2005
Bobby Abreu wasn’t holding back in 2005 when he crushed 41 home runs in the competition. If for no other reason, fans should tune in to see if one of this year’s challengers can top that mark. My money is on Chris Davis.
28 - Josh Hamilton’s First-Round Total in 2008
Abreu holds the record for most dingers in a Home Run Derby, but Josh Hamilton put him to shame in 2008 with a first-round total of 28. The guy just couldn’t stop.
Hamilton went on to lose the contest that year in favor of Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, but his feat stands. Good luck topping that number this year, anyone.
33 - Chris Davis’ Regular Season Home Run Total this Year
Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has been on a torrid pace this season, already hammering home 33 long balls to this point. Facing batting practice pitches from a hurler of his choosing, it’s hard to expect Davis to not top that total in the Home Run Derby this year.
133 - Total Homers Hit By Seven Announced Participants this Season
Seven of the eight Home Run Derby participants have been chosen so far with the final American League spot still up in the air. The seven announced participants have tallied 133 home runs in the first half of 2013, including 24 from Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.
Baseball Tonight tweeted the rosters for each squad following the selection:
488 - Mark McGwire’s Longest Shot at Fenway in 1999
Quantity is great, but don’t forget about quality.
In 1999, Mark McGwire put on a masterful display at Fenway Park, but none of his 13 first-round home runs compared to the shot he put over the Green Monster estimated at 488 feet.
Something tells me Prince Fielder will pop a couple shots like that this year.
519 - Frank Thomas’ Even Longer Home Run at Three Rivers in 1994
I’m still not sure anyone will ever come close to matching the power of the “Big Hurt.”
In 1994, Frank Thomas set out to knock a ball into the next county with a 519-footer out of Three Rivers Stadium that still hasn’t landed. Need another reason to watch this year?
$615,000 - Total Amount Donated to Charity Last Year
The Home Run Derby is simply a fun event that gets people excited about baseball. At its core, the contest is little more than an enjoyable competition that brings out the friendlier side of the sport.
Major League Baseball has done its best to market the derby as such, but the league also does its philanthropic duty in donating to the Boys & Girls Club of America.
Last year, the MLB donated $440,000 to the organization and another $120,000 to local youth organizations, donating $615,000 in total adding in other contributions, per MLB.com.
Between the family atmosphere, lighthearted fun and towering moonshots, there really isn't a reason to not watch the Home Run Derby.