The Meaning of the Home Run Derby

Jesse Gloyd usually can be found writing essays about baseball (among other things) at (which is where most of these posts live). Follow him on Twitter at @jessejamesgloyd.

I took my son to his first day of preschool this morning. He went right off and began playing in the sand like it was something he was meant to do. I stayed back for a few minutes to fill out paperwork and left. It felt good. Now I'm home with his younger brother. He is in his crib listening to canned Mozart through mobile speakers in need of battery (the thing, not the physical act). Everything is coming full circle.

Last night, I tried to force my son to watch the Home Run Derby with me. It was an uphill battle from the start. He wanted to watch trains and Peanuts. I tried to get him excited.

"Can you say, Adrian Gonzalez?"

"Adrian Gornzal."

He stood by the window and ran his train back and forth. There was no need to force the situation, but it made me feel a little weird. He wasn't into what I was into. He didn't want to watch Adrian Gonzalez hit home runs. He didn't really have a true grasp on the idea of the home run.

There is a weird childhood pull that tugs at my gut. Baseball began to crystallize with repeated viewings of the old Home Run Derby television show. I could do an internet search, but I'd rather pull from memory. Mickey Mantle sticks out. Willie Mays and Ernie Banks were there too. Ernie Banks surprised me with his power. Harmon Killebrew, Jackie Jensen, Bob Allison, Rocky Colavito. It was odd watching them. It felt like home video footage of Moses performing a mock sacrifice as an infomercial for sacrificial cutlery. It seemed old and mythical, beyond comprehension. Aside from money and a trip to Los Angeles, there was no reason for the players to participate in something so trivial.

But it was cool and it seemed fun. We would never play baseball in the summer. We never had enough people. Instead, we would play home run derby. The corner of my front yard wedged into a backstop. There was a loose black Easton plate that stayed in the corner the entire summer. We had a few bats. A wooden Willie Horton. A green and silver Easton we would later try and cork with colorful bouncy balls. And the Thumper, a black and gold Worth with Jose Canseco's signature scribbled across. We would choose players and bat opposite our natural way. We would replicate stances as best we could. Julio Franco and Ty Cobb were easy and cheap.

Because of these memories, my views of the exhibition are antithetical to those of the thinking crowd. It's easy to goof on the length and the absurdity of the event, but I really want my son the emulate the frivolity of it. I know it will make his summers more fun. I know it will help keep memory alive.

By dinner time, he had begun to catch on.

"He crushed it!" I said.

"He crushed it!" he repeated.

"That's gonna' hit Santa," I said.

"That's not Santa," he said.

"Yeah it is."

"What's Santa doing in the pool?"

"He's just hanging out."

"Oh, okay."

I got up and left the room. I forget what I was doing. The game stayed on though. He kept watching. He told my wife about them crushing it. He learned how to follow the ball in flight. He didn't need the sound. He didn't need Santa or weird catch phrases. He just needed some motivation and time. I think he's starting to get it.

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