For me the home run derby has always been viewed the same way I view horse racing - I can see why people enjoy it, but it's just not for me.
Sure as a baseball fan I don't mind seeing sluggers blast home runs to eager fans. And watching the kids in the outfield bowl over each other in a battle of "which lanky kid will jump in front of a girl this time" is mildly entertaining.
However, after the second or third "back back back" from Chris Berman I'm usualy gone gone gone.
So in an effort to improve the event I've come up with some improvements. Now I'm not saying that all of these should be implemented together. But if at least one of them were added, it would be a more watchable event for everyone.
1. Play it a different field than that years All-Star game
What's unique about watching players hit home runs at a regular MLB stadium. Moreover, what's interesting about it? Solution: play the home run derby at a little league field and pick natural points or place markers (bike racks, flag pole...anything) as the home run line.
Not only would this be something different, but it would bring the players as well as the fans back to their youth.
For 4 years in little league my home field had a road 20 or so feet beyond right-center field. Can you imagine Prince Fielder hitting a bomb OVER the street and into the fields across the street? If my best friend Jim who had a slight eating problem as a kid could get his girth behind one and park it just short of the street, I'd love to see what the pros could do.
2. Team vs. Team
Let me get this straight, we have 2 full teams in Anaheim right now, yet only 8 guys are participating in the home run derby? And some of those guys aren't even in the All-Star game!
Solution: Pick 9 guys from each team to participate. If their respective regular clubs don't want them to participate then don't come to the game (Robinson Cano, I'm looking at you.)
Part of the joy of being on any team is overcoming the pressure of holding up YOUR part of the bargain.
Imagine this: the NL is done batting and the AL is through their first eight hitters and now the entire AL team is getting behind Joe Mauer or Ichiro or Miguel Cabrera.
Sure they only need three homers to tie and four to win, but can he do it!?
I'd tune in to find out.
3. Hitters vs Pitchers
How hard is it to hit a home run off of a pitcher throwing batting practice? Decently hard. Now imagine it off of a pitcher who is in his own contest, trying to get out the current batter so he can move on to the next round of his own contest.
I imagine it going something like this. Instead of eight different BP pitchers pitching to the eight different batters there would be eight All-Star pitchers doing their best to strike them out and NOT give up home runs.
The pitchers would be penalized for throwing balls and giving up home runs, and hitters would be rewarded for hitting home runs and showing plate discipline by not swinging at pitches outside the zone.
The rounds would widdle it down in the same manner 8-4-2-1 and ultimately we'd have a champion pitcher AND a champion hitter.
4. Let the little guys hit
Every time the Mariners come to town I'm sure you hear the "Ichiro can hit home run every pitch if he wanted to" story. Well, I'd like to see he and his other pint size brethren prove it.
Ichiro, Juan Pierre, Chone Figgins, and Rajai Davis can represent the American League.
Michael Bourn, Nyjer Morgan, Ryan Theriot, Luis Castillo and Adam Kennedy can represent the National League.
Better move those awkward lanky kids in a few steps for this one.
5. Aluminum bats
I get it aluminum bats are dangerous and could never be used in regular MLB games. But the home run derby is the perfect spot to show off what a major league players with years of *ahem* weight training could do with a metal bat.
Hitting the ball further than is ever seen in a regular game? Likely
Creating a market for spots outside of the actual stadium to catch home runs? Possibly
Hitting a ball far enough that Chris Berman has an aneurysm in his attempt to describe every home run in the most annoying way possible? Hopefully
These are just a few ideas of ways to improve the home run derby. As a baseball fan it's weird to feel so disconnected from an event like this. With these changes or others out there that have been mentioned already, MLB can bring the home run derby from the stables to must-see tv.