Each year, when the All-Star break comes around, a lot of fans take the time to catch up on the TV that they miss during the baseball season. There are also a lot of fans who enjoy the majority of the All-Star festivities from the Home Run Derby, to the Celebrity Softball game, to the All-Star game itself.
Over the past several years, the Home Run Derby has probably ranked last on my list when it comes to the All-Star break. Sure, you get to watch guys hit monster home runs, but a lot of the time you see guys try too hard, and their time is up before they've even had a chance to dazzle the crowd with their home run prowess.
I always enjoyed watching the players interacting with each other on the field while there was someone hitting, or seeing the players' kids in miniature replicas of their fathers' jerseys on the sidelines more than watching them hit home runs.
However, last year I got completely sucked into the Derby. Maybe it was because it was taking place at Yankee Stadium, or because there was so much hype surrounding the Rangers' outfielder named Josh Hamilton.
Josh Hamilton's story had been spread around baseball like wildfire in 2008. He was a great prospect when he was drafted, and was thought to have a lot of promise as he worked his way up.
Hamilton ended up going down the road of drugs and alcohol, and was out of baseball quicker than he made it up to the big leagues. Yet, somehow he was able to pull himself out of that black hole, and find his way back to baseball.
Hamilton had an incredible start to 2008, lighting up pitchers all around the league. He earned a starting spot on the AL roster for the All-Star game, and was more than happy to compete in the Home Run Derby.
He was one of the last guys to hit in the Derby, but it quickly became a case of saving the best for last. For almost 45 minutes, Hamilton hit balls into the deepest parts of Yankee Stadium racking up a record breaking 28 home runs in the first round.
I couldn't tear my eyes away from the TV; it's always impressive to see a player hit the ball over 500 feet, but what Hamilton was doing was much more than just hitting balls out of the park. It was like magic every time he swung his bat, and all of the All-Stars sitting on the field as spectators watched in complete awe as Hamilton advanced to the final round of the Derby.
One of the major flaws in the Derby is that once a player qualifies for the second round, their total from the first and second round get combined, and their total propels them into the third round. However, once they reach the final round, the slate is wiped clean and both players start at zero.
Hamilton ended up going against the Twins' slugger Justin Morneau, and while his total was higher in both rounds, Morneau ended up winning the Derby because he hit more in the third round.
It would seem that the person with the most home runs overall should win the Derby, but either way that night was all about Hamilton and how he managed to fight his way to the top.
For once, watching the Home Run Derby was about so much more than just taking up TV time during the All-Star break. There will probably never be another Home Run Derby like it, but like tonight, I'll keep watching, because you can never be sure just when that bit of magic will come along and dazzle you in ways that you never thought possible.