Thursday, July 12, 2012

The 2012 Home Run Derby

"Please tell me he didn't just say that."

I knew he had, but I really didn't want the moment to be ruined by such crassness. Mark Trumbo had just obliterated some poor sap of a baseball. The white speck flew farther and farther into left field, until it came to a sudden halt as it collided with the towering "Royals Hall of Fame" sign.

"Now, THAT is a Trum-bomb!" screamed the on-field hype-man/MC/sponser-dropper.

I scanned over the whole of the Kauffman Stadium diamond below me. I knew he was down there. He had to be. He was there earlier. Surely, he can't run! I muttered under my breath and between the spittle, "Say Trum-bomb one more time! Just one more time. Say it. Say it! SAY IT!" like it was the nickname I had been called through all of my formative years and now that I've finally hit my growth spurt, I think I can fight the whole world; I've just needed an excuse.1

With cheese pouring from his ears, Mr. Hype-man provided the excuse after a lull of smashes. "Come on, KC! He's needs some motivation for some more Trum-bombs!" Before his teeth could even close to make that terrible "s" sound, my mind cut to me leaping with a terrible roar, causing all the onlookers encircling our duel to gasp simultaneously. Each punch was dedicated to some terrible pain he had inflicted upon me this evening. "This is for trying to get me to yell 2 hours before the derby! And, this is for saying 'State Farm' every 5 seconds!" And, then completing it with a "trum-bomb" of my own straight to the nose, followed by nervously explaining that this was his fault; he knew what would happen if he used THAT word.


The carnival style mad-man who refused to allow a moment's silence during the whole Home Run Derby was sadly fitting. He seemed to personify the whole joke that is the All-Star weekend. Except, he was in on the joke.


Before the derby started, the official guy-who-yells-really-loud-between-the-innings-at-games-to-keep-everyone-entertained tried to do a simple interview with Robinson Cano. What I got from the interview was, "BOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Kauffman was already filling up and it seemed that the whole crowd was booing as loud as ever at the man. And, whenever the booing died down, the guy-who-yells, etc. would say something like, "booing is a sign of appreciation" or "we love having you here," which would instantly ratchet the boos back up.

For those who don't know, Robinson Cano had promised that he would pick one of the hometown Royals to be in the Home Run Derby. Fans were incredibly excited, and with Billy Butler selected to the All-Star Game, Royals fans waited anxiously to see the man banging dingers at the derby. But, he wasn't picked. Cano offered no explanation other than ceaselessly repeating that the decision was really hard. After a large amount of vitriol began heading Cano's way, there were rumors he would drop out to let Butler take his spot. When asked about it, he said he wouldn't do that, because he wanted to win. All this rubbed the local fans the wrong way.

The big New Yorker had come in promising big things, but had instead slapped us across the face and pretended he didn't care in the slightest.

When the batting order went up on the 105 foot tall Crown-topped screen, Cano's name was listed last. The anticipation built for what I knew would be a memorable moment.


When I say it is the most fun I have ever had at Kauffman Stadium, I'm not kidding. My fondest memory of Kauffman prior was a walk-off home run from Ken Harvey in the 11th inning.3 Yes. I said Ken Harvey. During that exhiliratingly cruel 2003 season, the Royals were, well, royalty within the city. It finally seemed fun to be a Royals fan, rather than just an investment in the hope of future fun. But, when Cano came up to bat, the Royals community stood together again and created an even more beautiful moment.  

Every sharply fouled ball was met with a roar of ironic cheers. It felt almost like an English Premier League match. We were the Manchester United supporters behind the goal and Cano played the role of Fernando Torres missing the gaping goal. Justice had been meted out. The big New Yorker had strode in KC and collapsed under the midwest lights. Decades of angst and flyover-country jabs suddenly seemed worth all the trouble.

As Cano, sulked from home plate with zero home runs to a standing ovation, for a few brief--but oh-so-wondrous--moments the crowd noise drowned out what that hidden hype man was trying to scream.

1 The high schools depicted on the silver screen have always seemed like some strange foreign world compared to any of my high school experiences, but the fact that some version of this line comes up so often puzzles me more than any of the other oddities that Hollywood high schools seem to have come up with. Perhaps, my upper middle class2 high school missed out on all the fun.

2 Upper-middle class. Not upper class. Not middle class. I'm neither obnoxiously posh nor distigustingly average. I'm the perfect happy medium. Or, so we're told.

3 That was Harvey's 2nd hit of the game. Other multi-hit Royals that day: Michael Tucker, Raul Ibanez and Angel Berroa. The homer took us to a 12-3 record and filled a whole city with the sort of hope that we all knew would crush our souls in just a couple short months, but we hadn't tasted it for so long, so on we screamed, "nosotros creemos!" We believe.

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