The annual home run derby the day before the Major League Baseball All-Star Game pretty much delivers what you’d expect every year, but it was the scene on the field at San Francisco’s AT&T Park right before the event where some more unexpected action took place.
With All-Stars and coaches on the field as the players take some batting practice, it is a chance for the game’s top dogs to catch up in a relaxed atmosphere and talk about baseball, family, how to spend $252 million, off-season plans and whatever else.
But media members are also allowed on the field at that time, and that’s where the inadvertent entertainment can come in.
On one side of the field you had affable Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter laughingly obliging a Japanese television crew as he screamed into a camera, “MLB Samurai!” as everyone burst out in hysterics around him.
As a Twins fan myself, I’m hoping that is the name of a television show and not Torii’s new nickname.
Not far from Hunter channeling his inner Japanese warlord were some unofficial meetings of the ESPN Alumni Club, with guys like Tony Bruno, Larry Beil and Harold Reynolds obviously catching up about how much they miss the cultural Mecca that is Bristol, Connecticut.
Among topics of conversation was the guy who gets his Club membership next month, departing ESPN personality Dan Patrick, with Beil and Reynolds wondering aloud with just a hint of jealousy if Patrick will really be the new Bob Barker.
But there were plenty of current ESPN’ers mulling around, so apparently the entire company is not in total ESPY mode before Wednesday’s big event back in Los Angeles. And by “big event,” of course I say without a hint of cynicism. No, really.
Anyway, on the field it was great to see a vibrant Peter Gammons, as the stellar baseball reporter was looking on his game just over a year since his brain surgery.
Not far from Gammons, the bombastic Chris Berman – whose broadcasting game is much better suited for a Home Run Derby than his recent golf coverage – was already sweating through his shirt as the players welcomed him jovially at the batting cage.
And while ESPN aired the Derby and Fox Sports’ coverage wasn’t until Tuesday’s main event, there were plenty of Rupert’s Army mulling around as well.
Some Fox execs brought up forecasts of a possible lightning storm Tuesday afternoon just as their red carpet show would take place. That would make it tough for Joan and Melissa to ask crusty managers like Jim Leyland what they are wearing.
I’m kidding. I mean about Joan and Melissa being here, not about Leyland being crusty.
And also behind the batting cage, you just had to feel for the players and announcers like Fox’s Joe Buck, accosted by the tiny octogenarian lady from The Tonight Show.
Whether you are a Letterman, Stewart or Kimmel guy, Leno still gets the big numbers, so everyone just played along…and like certain exams at a doctor’s office, just closed their eyes and hoped it ended quickly.
Oh – then the Derby started and a bunch of guys hit a bunch of dingers (not into the cove in right field unfortunately). But the real action on the field was definitely done by then.