Two hometown heroes shone brightly and the defending All-Star MVP added a free car to his collection of accolades and trophies, during All-Star Week in Cincinnati, and baseball fans the world over left the Queen City with smiles and good memories.
The Cincinnati Reds, Major League Baseball and the city of Cincinnati should be very proud of their collective efforts over All-Star Week at Great American Ball Park. Heck, even Mother Nature cooperated and gave both Monday’s Home Run Derby and Tuesday’s All-Star Game enough of a window between rain storms to get the games in on time.
On Sunday, I enjoyed a taste of New York City sports reporting as I wrote a story on New York Yankees prospect Aaron Judge for a newspaper in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Judge, who currently plays for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in the AAA International League, is considered the no. 2 minor league baseball prospect in all of baseball by some publications. At 6-foot-7, he towers over the other ballplayers, and for much of the time before and after Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game, he found himself surrounded by writers from the New York Times, New York Post, New York Daily News, New York Yankees Publications, two or three N.Y.-area television and radio stations … and me.
Judge was very gracious to each of the reporters, but I couldn’t help but to wonder whether the novelty of being constantly surrounded by a dozen or so microphones and note pads all day would wear thin after a while. As a Yankees prospect, he better get used to it.
In a fitting tribute to Cincinnati Reds history, Ken Griffey Sr. served as the manager of the U.S. Team, while fellow Cincinnati Red standout Tony Perez coached the World Team. After the U.S. Team’s convincing 10-1 win, Griffey said he was relieved to have won. Why? “Because Tony would’ve never let me forget it if he had won,” Griffey laughed.
Seeing Middletown’s Kyle Schwarber take home the Futures Most Valuable Player trophy was also a nice treat. A twitter post commented that Schwarber was driving back to the Chicago Cubs’ AAA affiliate in Iowa when he got a phone call to report to Chicago instead. Schwarber is listed on the Cubs’ roster, but hasn’t been activated yet.
And then there was Monday’s Home Run Derby.
To me, that was the highlight of the All-Star festivities. Hearing the crowd roar as Cincinnati Red Todd Frazier rallied past the likes of former Milwaukee Brewer-turned-Texas Ranger Prince Fielder in the first round, Toronto’s Josh Donaldson in the semis, and then Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson in dramatic fashion, that made it worth being there. I haven’t heard that kind of energy at Great American Ball Park in a good while. Fans roared with each shot. And when it looked as if Frazier was going to come up short, they cheered him into a final 46-second tirade that earned him a tie after the three minutes of regulation.
The place then simply exploded when “The Toddfather” rocked his first bonus pitch into the left field stands to win.
After Monday’s excitement, I think Tuesday’s All-Star Game was on a lower level of fun.
Oh, it was great to see the game’s best play their best at GABP.
• L.A. Angel Mike Trout’s lead-off home run.
Did you know that Trout completed the natural baseball first at-bat cycle on that homer? He hit a single in his first All-Star Game three years ago in Kansas City, doubled the following year in New York, tripled last season in his first at-bat in Minneapolis, and then he led off with a solo home run in Cincy.
Trout won a car for being the 2014 Most Valuable Player; he went home with a new pick-up truck for winning 2015 MVP honors.
• Seeing the New York Mets pitcher Jacob DeGrom strike out Oakland’s Stephen Vogt, Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis and the Tigers’ Jose Iglesias to retire the side on a Major League All-Star Game record 10 pitches.
• Watching the Pittsburgh Pirates’ leadoff batter Andrew McCutchen launch a laser home run into the stands.
• Learning how the Indians’ Kipnis willfully gave up his second at-bat so Minnesota Twins infielder Brian Dozier could get a swing, and then watching Dozier drive a home run into the stands.
• Hearing the fans roar with each 100+ mph pitch Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman through past AL hitters Brock Holt of Boston, K.C.’s Mike “Moooose” Moustakas and the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira, and watching the American League players marvel at Chapman’s speed, that was pretty cool as well.
The pregame ceremonies may have been better than the game itself, with tributes to such standouts as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax and Johnny Bench (Baseball’s Living Legends), and Reds Bench, Joe Morgan, Barry Larkin and Pete Rose (Cincinnati’s Franchise Four), the crowd roared its approval.
It’s those All-Star moments I’ll never forget. It’s the fun that was had in Cincinnati that baseball fans around the world will always remember.
John Bombatch can be reached at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.