HR Derby Champ: Yoenis Cespedes
Target Field – Minneapolis, MN
July 14, 2014
Another day, another dream come true. But first, I had to get through the late night, the “anticipationsomnia”, and an early alarm clock for the second day of FanFest. Yes, I woke up at 6 in the morning because I wanted a damn bobblehead – but it was totally worth it, since without this exact chain of events I may not have had the same tale to tell. (Plus, it was a Tony Oliva bobblehead. He’s the nicest guy you could ever meet and it’s become one of my favorite bobbles.)
I’ve mentioned enough about FanFest for now (photos and detailed account to be shown at a later date), so let’s skip ahead to the gates and “game” itself.
Gate 34 @ 10:30 am:
Sure, the derby didn’t start until 7 pm and gates wouldn’t open until 4, but I am in the royal court when it comes to being early (I hesitate to use the word “king”). The good news about getting to the gates so early? I was spotted by Sean Casey, former MLBer and current MLB Network reporter, and asked to do an interview for Intentional Talk. How cool is that?! I even got to record a “gotheeeeem!” at the end. Supposedly, this interview was shown on the Tuesday show, can anyone confirm?
PS: Does anyone have a link to this or have a way to view it? I haven’t been able to see it.
After the interview, the long wait started at the gates. The good news was that my friend, Jared, showed up and shortly thereafter a father-son combo from San Fran showed up. We had met the San Fran guys the day before, but for the HR Derby we shared even more stories and really got to know them – heck, we even got the Jimmy Johns delivery tradition firmly planted. Side note: Yes, Jimmy Johns delivers to the stadium, just specify the gate and they show up on a bicycle.
Also showing up at the gates were Nick and Jabs. I had seen them briefly the day before, but beyond saying a short hello and introductions, there was no time for stories. The three of us played some catch and generally hang out. Being around these giants of the ballhawk scene made me feel at peace for some reason. Their nerves were not completely calm, their anticipation was also high, and this made me feel normal/acceptable.
A few more hawks filtered in and so we had a nice group photo taken on the giant gold glove in the plaza:
Many stories and a few time-defying hours later, we finally entered the gates, but not before I got a DM from a very special Twitter-follower. A few minutes after 3 pm I got a message from Jeff Allen – guitarists for an amazing local band that is kind of shut down indefinitely, The Plastic Constellations – and it said the following:
How cool is that?! Not only was this guy part of a band that I love (my favorite album of 2008 is their “We Appreciate You” swansong), but he is a writer for Rolling Stone!!… and wants to interview me!!(?!)
Of course I agreed to my second interview of the day. I would have said yes to any Rolling Stone interviewer; I would have said yes to just talking to Jeff Allen at a baseball game; but meeting Jeff Allen, being interviewed for Rolling Stone, and being at an All-Star Game event?! Too much.
Because I am so excited, why not share a photo and then the link right away? I know, it’s out of order, but who cares.
Remember how I said I was going to toss-ups only? Well, I stuck to my ways that had worked well the previous day and landed a nice HR Derby ball right away. Who was this from? I don’t know and cannot remember. So many people were in the batting practice area (a complete media frenzy) so this mystery person just got lost in the shuffle.
This time I could see the jersey and remembered the name, Greg Colbrunn.
I shouted for Carlos Gomez (Go-Go) and he smiled as I flashed my “¿Pelota, Por Favor?” sign, but it was his buddy Starlin Castro – jealous Larry? – who ended up tossing me the ball from the other side of the batting cages.
Remember how I got interviewed by Sean Casey earlier? Well, he remembered that I was chasing balls and hooked me up with one. He even went out of his way to ask a coach for one from the bucket by the BP pitcher.
The skies opened up for a lengthy but light rain, so the crowd dispersed, except for me a few other diehards. I cheered loudly for Justin Morneau as he took his BP rips with rain coming down. He smiled a lot and then tried tossing me a ball, only to have it sail over my head and get picked up by someone else. He was nice enough to try again a minute or so later. This time, with much success.
*End of BP/Begin HR Derby*
I decided to try for a Morneau HR, since he was the only lefty and all of left field was seating (next to impossible to sneak into and grab a seat). I came about 5 feet short on his first HR… stupid flag. If not for hitting the flag, I may have just snagged a Morneau derby ball. Oh well, my nerves and anxiety over snagging a FlexBall were nagging away at me, but all would be made awesome shortly.
*End of HR Derby/Awards Ceremony*
One of the AL coaches or staff had a ball from the derby (one of the pitches that you see taken by a contestant) and tossed it just out of my reach. Good thing I had a giant sign that I could use as a backboard!
YES!!! FLEXBALL!!! Dominique is entering god-like status. One of the hardest to snag balls was now going home with me. It matched my orange jacket nicely, along with Mateo’s orange Twins cap, and the orange Gatorade that was tossed to me from the derby coolers on the field. Orange is the new black.
I was in heaven. I was batting 1.000 in my commemorative quest at the All-Star Game, with just one more left in play (heck, I’d argue I was batting an impossible 1.333, since that commemorative softball made it 4 for 3 in a weird way).
Can you tell that I am stoked?
While Paul was a little less stoked and Mateo… well, we’ll let him speak for himself.
Here’s the entire group, followed by the two-day total.
- Two mystery men
- Greg Colbrunn
- Starlin Castro
- Sean Casey – for the interview and ball
- Justin Morneau – we miss you and wish you much success
- Dominique – thanks for the white whale
- Joseph Pedlowe and his father – cool dudes from the San Fran area
- Eric Jabs and Nick from PNC – for playing catch
- Leiming Tang – wish I had more time to talk to him
- Paul Kom
- Mateo Fischer – for using his orange hat
- Jeff Allen – for the interview and chilling with a TPC fan
- Jordan Roske (and his wife) – for hanging out with Jeff and me, then taking a photo
- The Plastic Constellations – for beautiful rock and roll music