Let me start by saying that this was the best mid-summer celebration that I have ever attended. I'm not just saying that because it was in Davenport, either. The last one that we hosted was perhaps the worst I've ever attended. The festivities were not confined to the stadium. There were fan fest activities all around town including everything from autograph sessions at the River's Edge Sports facility to the most inflatable jumpy things I've ever seen in one place, to an after hours pub crawl for the adults.
Monday night's home run derby was an exciting event. I arrived at the park thinking that I would watch for a few batters and then head home. I'm not usually a fan of the derbies. I was surprised to see a plethora of sponsored targets on the field. There was a point system assigned to hitting the targets or hitting balls out of the infield. Of course the highest points were assigned to the biggest hits. Each batter got 10 balls to hit. A pitch that wasn't attempted was not counted against the batter and a home run ball was awarded a bonus hit. Finally, the last ball pitched to each batter was a "gold ball" that was worth double points. Also, points were deducted for foul balls and swinging strikes. I stayed the entire evening!
The participants this year were Michael Crouse from Lansing, Jake Blackwood from Fort Wayne, Marcus Knecht from Lansing, Derek Dietrich from Bowling Green, and Yazy Arbelo from South Bend representing the East Conference. Swinging for the West was Travis Witherspoon from Cedar Rapids, Greg Rohan from Peoria, Daniel Ortiz from Beloit, Mike Walker from Wisconsin, and Quad Cities' own Cody Stanley.
The players were paired with fans for the derby and were also assigned a local charity. Each time a target was hit, the assigned fan and the charity both benefited. In the end, the Quad Cities Center for Autism was the big winner for the charities.
In the first round, the points ranged from 12 to 78. In round two, the hitters scored from 23 to 109 points. Jake Blackwood actually scored 60 of his points in one round, hitting six consecutive homers. In the final round, it was down to Blackwood and Witherspoon and on the strength of this double score with the gold ball, Travis Witherspoon prevailed to win.
The pub crawl was after the home run derby. I didn't participate because I knew that my boss wouldn't give me an excused absence from work the next morning. I had to laugh and wonder how many of the players weren't old enough to participate! The Quad Cities have become known for their small, craft breweries so I'm sure that a good time was had by all.
The game itself was held on Tuesday. Again, it was a very well-orchestrated evening. The park was full but didn't feel crowded. The concessions were well-staffed and well-stocked. I heard several fans from other cities comment on how good our food is. I spent much of the evening with friends, watching the game from the outfield berm.
|Trevor Rosenthal started for the West|
One of the things that really highlighted the two nights was the interaction of the teams with fans. The players were really having fun and making sure that the fans did, too. During the Home Run Derby, the Eastern All-Stars made sure that the Hooters' Girls each had plenty of time in the dunk tank near second base. One of them even took a turn in the tank himself. During the game on Tuesday, one of the All-Stars made an impromptu appearance between innings as he joined the professional juggler on the field and thrilled the crowd by juggling three bats.
|Starlin Rodriguez squares up on Johnny Rodriguez during a recent BP|
If you've never been to a mid-summer classic, I highly recommend going out of your way on a summer vacation to take in the experience. Get a dog and a beer, find your seat early, sit back and enjoy the show.
Next week, we're back to "regular" reports. The Bandits have sent a few guys to Florida and I'm hoping to talk to Kolten Wong before next Monday. If you have a specific question for him, send them to my mailbox on the forum (sport61201) by Wednesday this week. I'll ask your questions if I can get a few minutes with our first round pick.
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