2012 State Farm Home Run Derby

If you follow me on twitter then you’re probably aware that I received an all expense paid trip to the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby courtesy of State Farm. You may not, however, be aware that I made the trip out west with my Grandpa. With that said….

July 8, 2012: Arriving In Kansas City

My Grandpa and I arrived at our hotel in downtown Kansas City at around 4:00:

Did you notice the All Star logos? Well, they were everywhere, including the lobby:

But things didn’t stop there. The logo was even on the room card:

I could go on and on about all the different places I saw the logo, but I won’t for two reasons: a) I lost count, and b) I think you get the idea. It was truly insane.

After checking into the hotel there was still a little time left to kill before we were supposed to meet up with the other bloggers in the lobby for dinner, so my Grandpa and I decided to head over to the Kansas City Convention Center, where Fan Fest was being held. On the way there we stopped by to pick up our credentials, which allowed us to come and go from Fan Fest as we pleased. Mine looked like this:

We spent an hour or so walking around and checking out everything there was to see:

It was a massive place, and there was a lot going on, but the world’s largest baseball was the one thing that really caught my eye:

To get an idea of how large it really was, take a look at the guy on the right (in the blue shirt). I realize he’s still a good distance away from it, but even if he was RIGHT next to it, he wouldn’t appear much taller. In addition to its size, there were also tons of signatures on the baseball. Some of them I didn’t recognize, but the autos of guys like George Brett, Bud Selig, etc., were the ones that stood out the most.

Around 5:30 we headed back over to the hotel. On the way I stopped to snap a photo of the fountain out front:

I’m not sure how they kept the water so blue, but it was pretty cool.

We met up with my fellow bloggers at around 6:15 and headed over to Jack Stack BBQ to eat. The food was great, and the portion sizes were large. (Two things that combine for me eating too much.)

After we finished eating, and discussing the plan for the next day, we made our way back to the hotel. My Grandpa and I went to bed before 10:00. The next day was going to start early, and end late, so we were going to need all the rest we could get.

July 9, 2012: Home Run Derby

Our day started out with a short walk over to the convention center, at 5:45 am. Ryan Howard–who would be putting on a hitting clinic later in the day for the BGCA–had already arrived. After waiting for Howard to finish up with a short interview he was conducting, we all got our chance to chat with him. I’m a big fan of Howard, and had been looking forward to meeting him for weeks, so when the time finally came I was pretty excited:

Don’t be fooled by my half-smile expression. I really WAS thrilled to meet him. I was just a bit tired. Getting up earlier than most of the people in Kansas City will do that to you; but it was well worth it.

My Grandpa didn’t pass up the opportunity to meet Howard either, as he had me take a picture of the both of them together:

Good times.

After the meet and greet, Ryan Howard took a short break to get something to eat/drink, before getting set up for 3 straight hours of live TV interviews. My Grandpa and I stuck around for a bit to watch Howard do his thing, before we went back to the hotel for a couple of hours. On our way to the exit we passed by a small group of people. On closer inspection, this is who they were crowded around:

That would be Cal Ripken Jr.

I’m assuming that’s a baseball player he’s talking to, and I admit I should probably know who it is, but I can’t figure it out. If anyone could identify him for me I’d appreciate it. (Just leave a comment below.)

We were told to arrive back to the Convention Center by 9:30, but we ended up showing back up when Fan Fest opened at 9:00. By the time we made our way over to where Ryan Howard had been earlier in the morning he was still hard at work doing interviews for various TV shows:

One of the main things Howard was promoting (and the reason he was there) was the State Farm Go To Bat program where people just like you, the reader, can “go to bat” in the online game to help raise money for charity. In addition to helping out various charities, you also have the chance to win a trip for two to a game during the 2012 World Series–as if the chance to raise money for charity wasn’t enough. So be sure to head over to check that out by either clicking the above link, or you can just CLICK HERE.

Ryan Howard finished up with the interviews a few minutes after I took that last picture, but his day wasn’t done. After taking a short break Howard began conducting a hitting clinic with several kids from the Boys and Girls Club of America (BGCA):

I know it appears as if the kid Howard is instructing was the only one there, but there were 20-30 kids sitting on the ground just out of the shot. (You’ll see them in a second.)

After a quick demonstration, it was time for the kids to show what kind of skills they had, as they were broken up into groups and put into batting cages:

They received 10 swings apiece. Some of which were really impressive.

After the kids from the BGCA had their shot, each of us bloggers got our turn. I was really concerned about not doing well. I mean, I don’t play baseball, and there were around 100+ people watching; including media members, random onlookers that had formed outside of the batting area, and of course, Ryan Howard himself. But I just had fun with it, and didn’t do all that bad.

Although there was no timing involved–since the ball was on a stationary tee–I still had issues with pulling the ball. Not that I couldn’t do it, but that I couldn’t stop doing it. I pulled my first 6 or so balls before I decided to readjust my feet, which really helped me out. My next swing sent the ball sailing over the wall. Given, the wall was a mere 100 feet or less away, I was still thrilled. All I wanted to do was hit ONE home run, and I did. Mission accomplished.

After we all finished hitting, Ryan Howard stepped to the plate and took a few hacks:

It should go without saying that he did better than the rest of us.

After everything was over, Howard posed for a picture with the kids, and the 5,000 dollar donation check from State Farm:

They all wanted to be touching at least a portion of the check, and I think they succeeded.

After taking the picture with the check, many of the kids handed Howard items for him to sign, which he did with no problem. I was really impressed with how friendly he was. I’ve always had that impression of Howard, but until you meet someone in person you never really know for sure.

On our way out we passed by Harold Reynolds (who I had actually seen in the lobby of our hotel the night before):

We all went out to a group lunch at the Webster House, before heading over to Kauffman Stadium at around 3:00:

Upon arrival we all headed over to the Habitat for Humanity build:

After learning a good amount about the Habitat for Humanity program, my fellow bloggers and I each signed our names to the house:

I didn’t write anything special, just: “God Bless–Matthew Huddleston”.

Some celebrities had signed the beams of the house as well, including guys like Bo Jackson…..:

…..and this guy:

Yep, Derek Jeter. AWESOME.

You have to get really technical, but if you think about it, I signed my name to the *same* house as my favorite player in all of baseball; which is beyond cool. Even if my name IS 100 feet away from his, and thus isn’t on the same beam, it’s still the *same* house. Maybe you don’t get it, but in my mind it counts.

We spent awhile at the build before we all headed over to the ballpark, and entered the MLB Fan Cave. This was the view:

Two of my favorite TV shows were being filmed during this time. Directly to my right was Baseball Tonight:

And just down the line was Intentional Talk:

After a few minutes, the cave dwellers appeared:

They all seemed like cool people–with a really cool “job”.

Minutes before we left the Fan Cave area, my fellow bloggers and I posed for a group photo:

From left to right you have: ME, Candy, Audrey and JR. Feel free to click on each of the names to be taken directly to their twitter pages. (I suggest you give them each a follow.)

After leaving the cave I made my way down towards the area where MLB Tonight was being filmed:

To my surprise there was no one checking tickets to keep you out of areas you didn’t belong, so I managed to work my way down the line and into the front row, where I was able to capture photos of some of the All Star players that kept walking by. Below are some of the better ones I got:

Bryce Harper doing an interview on MLB Tonight.

Mike Trout during his interview.

Yu Darvish. (In the red spikes.)

Chris Rose and Kevin Millar. (Hosts of Intentional Talk.)

R.A. Dickey.

Matt Kemp.

And, last but not least, Chipper Jones.

Everyone was asked to return to their assigned seats a few minutes before the conclusion of batting practice. That wasn’t a big deal, because our seats were pretty awesome:

I was in seat 21, in row KK, in section 221. (Just in case you care.)

Reggie Jackson (who happened to be on our flight out of Kansas City the next morning) threw out the first pitch:

The sluggers then posed for a group photo down around home plate:

Shortly thereafter, the derby got underway.

I hated that Giancarlo Stanton couldn’t participate in the derby due to an injury. He would of put on an amazing show. His replacement, Andrew McCutchen, did as poorly as I had expected. The biggest shock of the derby was Robinson Cano’s performance. I expected him to at least make it past the first round, but he didn’t even hit a single home run. It was very disappointing to say the least.

My pick to win the derby was Prince Fielder. I’m not just saying that now, after seeing Fielder win. I honestly made the statement several hours before the derby even began. In my mind, it was a sure bet; though Bautista gave him a run for his money.

In the end, the world saw Prince Fielder beat out Jose Bautista in the final round…..:

…..to win his second career Home Run Derby title:

The only other player to win two Home Run Derbys’ being Ken Griffey Jr. Not a bad name to be associated with.

I had a fantastic time out in Kansas City at the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby. Everything went as smoothly as I could’ve ever wished for, and the weather was perfect. It was an experience that I’ll certainly never forget.

I was invited to the State Farm® Home Run Derby and Go to Bat kick-off programs by State Farm. All my travel, food, and lodging expenses were taken care of by State Farm. I was not paid to write this post.

Who I’d Like To See In the 2012 Home Run Derby

It was announced a few days ago that last year’s Home Run Derby champion, Robinson Cano, would be participating in this year’s derby as well. Cano was named the captain for the American League, with the same title being given to Matt Kemp, who is set to be the National League captain. Both Kemp and Cano have to choose three players from their respective leagues to participate in the derby; and of course, those players in which they ask, have to say yes.

With the 2012 Home Run Derby right at a month away, I thought I’d post this little entry detailing who I’d like to see Kemp and Cano choose.

Cano’s Picks: American League

According to reports, Josh Hamilton has stated that he will not be participating in this years derby, which I think is a real shame. Hamilton put on a show back in 2008, and would be fun to watch again, but in the end, all Cano can do is ask. It’s Hamilton’s decision to make.

It’s also been rumored that Cano plans to ask Yankees’ teamate Curtis Granderson to participate in the derby. Although Granderson has the ability to lauch a ball over 400 feet, I don’t think he has the ability to put on the type of “show” you associate with a home run derby. But if chosen, he may just prove me wrong.

Now, moving on to who I’d pick if I were Robinson Cano.

There are a lot of great players to choose from, but out of the power sluggers in the American League, I’d have to go with the following:

Adam Jones- Jones has his good games, and his bad games, just like every other player in baseball, but lately it seems the good games are becoming more numerous. Jones is a guy I’d really love to see take part in this year’s derby. He’s seemed to be really locked in at the plate lately, coming up big in some pressure situations. I feel the lack of pressure presented with a home run derby would give Jones the ability to have some fun, and if he could get into a rhythm, might even have a shot at winning the entire thing.

Mark Trumbo- If there’s anyone in the American League who could really lauch some jaw dropping home runs, it’s Mark Trumbo. This guy has MASSIVE power, and I feel his ability to lauch a ball far over the center field wall of any ballpark would give him an advantage in the derby. Unlike most players in baseball who are pure pull hitters–or exactly the opposite; those who like to go the other way–Trumbo loves going out to dead center field. The advantage for Trumbo would come after the first round when the participants are beginning to tire. If Trumbo switches his approach to pulling the ball, even slightly, in the later rounds, it would really help him out, in my mind.

Jose Bautista- If you’ll remember last year, Bautsita was really a disappointment in the home run derby. Coming off of a league leading 54 home run season the year before, Bautista couldn’t get things going, which unfortunately resulted in a mere 4 home runs. After such a horrible performance by Bautista, I nearly made the decision not to include him, but decided to give him another chance. This would be his second time participating, and I feel the fact that he’s been through it before would enable him to really put on a show.  

I know what you’re thinking. Where’s Pujols, Fielder, etc.?! Well, after some debate, I made the decision not to include them for the fact that I feel that a little change would be good for the derby. People know that Pujols and Fielder can absolutely crush a baseball (Pujols not as much, as of late),however, I for one would like to see some new faces put on a show. Give them their chance to shine, and amaze the fans with jaw dropping blasts.

Kemp’s Picks: National League

Like Robinson Cano, Matt Kemp participated in last year’s Home Run Derby, however didn’t fare nearly as well. Hitting a mere three home runs, Kemp didn’t even make it past the first round. I look for him to do much better in this year’s derby, as he doesn’t seem quite as concerned about pulling the ball this season. Letting the ball travel, before depositing it the other way will go a long way in helping him in the derby, in my opinion.

Kemp started out this season as the hottest hitter in Major League Baseball, however injuries have haulted his rampage. I’m not prepared to venture a guess as to how many homers Kemp will blast in this year’s derby, but I can pretty much guarantee you it’ll be more than three.

Now, moving on to who I’d pick if I were Matt Kemp.

Just like the American League, there are a lot of great players to choose from, but out of the power sluggers in the National League, I’d go with the following:

Giancarlo Stanton- This is a no-brainer for me. There is no one in the National League who can make you say WOW more than Giancarlo Stanton. The ball seems to jump off his bat, and the fact that he can hit balls 50-75 feet over the left field wall would enable him to make it into the second, and possibly third, and final, round of the derby, when the ball doesn’t go as far, due to tiring. Another advantage I feel Stanton has against the other potential participants, is the fact that he hits line drive home runs, instead of the towering homers hit by other players that seem to just clear the wall.

Bryce Harper- The fact that Bryce Harper is a rookie makes the decision to pick him for the derby even more favorable. There aren’t many rookies in baseball who can crush a ball as hard as Harper can–very few non-rookies, for that matter. Harper has been in the spotlight since he first made an appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated, at age 16. Now 19, Harper has the ability to pull in viewers to the live broadcast of the derby on ESPN. His last name is enough to do that, but the fact that he would stand a good shot at giving the other (older) participants a run for their money is reason enough to watch for many who would normally have their TV’s turned to an alternate channel.

Ryan Braun- This would be a good pick by Matt Kemp on more than one level. Braun certainly has earned the right to be picked for the derby, as he hit an impressive 34 home runs last season, and shows no sign of slowing down; having hit nearly half that many thus far in 2012. While Braun has the ability to put on a show, and hold his own in the derby, I feel it would be a good pick by Kemp for another reason. Many Dodger fans still hold a grudge against Ryan Braun, who was presented with the 2011 N.L. M.V.P award, even though Kemp had arguably better stats. Picking Braun for the derby, and lasting longer than him, would give Dodger fans a little bit of belated satisfaction.

While Robinson Cano and Matt Kemp may not pick any of my above suggestions, I honestly hope they pick at least a few of them. I feel my picks would make for an exciting 2012 Home Run Derby.

Feel free to leave a comment below as to whether or not you agree with my picks. I’d love to hear who you’d love to see Cano and Kemp pick.