We mentioned in yesterday's chronicles that we'd watch the Atlantic League Home Run Derby and All-Star Game, because, it's pretty damn weird that an independent minor league Home Run Derby and All-Star Game are available for instant streaming across the world. After all, the MLB All-Star Game is already kinda boring, and it has the best baseball players in the world, whereas this has a smattering of former major leaguers.
However, we neglected to mention the Atlantic League had one very large star. The problem is, he's not a baseball star:
Yes, after retiring from the NBA last year (and making TV appearances in terrible suits), the 7-time NBA all-star tried his hand at baseball, signing with the Sugar Land Skeeters, an Atlantic League team.
McGrady was not altogether bad for a 35-year-old trying professional baseball for the first time. This does not mean he was good at baseball, as you might be able to tell from his infinity walks-to-strikeouts ratio in an independent minor league.
But minor league baseball teams will do damn near anything to sell tickets. I imagine independent league teams have it harder: they don't have the umbrella of the MLB, or the requirement that they serve as developmental hubs for their parent teams, so if they don't make enough money, they could disappear.
This is how Tracy McGrady, a not-so-great baseball pitcher who used to be a great basketball player, not only managed to maintain a spot on a roster, but also ended up as the main attraction of an entire league's all-star game.
The Skeeters hosted the All-Star Game in a format that was just the Skeeters playing a game against the best players from around the league, which seems kinda unfair to me. But arranging for travel for 25 dudes is a lot easier than arranging for travel for 50, so let's just have one All-Star team and have them play a pre-existing team, deal?
First up was the Home Run Derby. Although Tracy McGrady is a pitcher and not a hitter, he participated in this, because he is Tracy McGrady. It went about how you'd expect:
McGrady got it to the warning track a few times, causing shrill shrieks from the announcing crew:
But alas, not a single ball Tracy hit managed to make it out of the park.
However, this is an independent minor league baseball all-star game, so there was a twist. Each hitter was paired with a local little leaguer, who had to hit it over the tiny fence about 200 feet deep. The combined tally of the dingers hit by the minor leaguer and the little leaguer won the competition.
Sure enough, McGrady's little leaguer -- perhaps not-so-coincidentally the son of the color commentator -- hit enough homers to send the derby into overtime, then hit the only home run in overtime, making the pair champions. McGrady didn't want to steal the kid's spotlight after he singlehandedly won the Home Run Derby, so we got this glorious interview:
Then it was time for the All-Star Game, and because Tracy McGrady has a 6.75 ERA and 10 walks in about six innings, he was the starter. He genuinely looked comfortable pitching: the announcer noted he could throw an 85 mile-per-hour fastball, and although he seemed to struggle with control, the speed seemed to be there. Perhaps in another life, McGrady could have been a pitcher. Instead, he was one of the most dynamic scorers of the past 20 years in basketball. He only gave up a run in an inning against baseball players who had played the sport their whole lives and had been deemed all-stars. That's an ugly ERA, of course, but hey, a lot of people would not be that good.
But McGrady had never struck anybody out, which the announcers mentioned multiple times. Until he came back out for the top of the second inning, and this happened:
Yup, that's a strike for sure! Definitely a strikeout! Congrats on the strikeout, Tracy!
As soon as the strike was called, McGrady's teammates mobbed him at the mound, and the manager -- Gary Gaetti, of course -- called for a reliever:
McGrady got the largest round of applause a pitcher has ever gotten for going 1.1 innings and giving up a run.
McGrady then went into the dugout. In an interview where he couldn't hear the announcers and the announcers couldn't hear him, he said that he had told the team before the game that the game was his last. He was hanging up the cleats after a half a season of professional baseball, and he thanked his teammates for helping show him the game, and for the fact that they appreciated him for his on-field accomplishments rather than his basketball glory.
"It feels good to be celebrated again," he said, making at least one blogger who really, really liked watching Tracy McGrady play and hated the way his career panned out feel really, really sad deep inside.
McGrady left baseball as a home run derby champ despite not hitting a single homer, and his last pitch was a strikeout, even if it was damn near a foot outside. And he left to a standing ovation.
As a person with barely a wisp of athletic talent, this is my dream: being escorted through various moments of athletic glory while only kinda doing the things that lead to athletic glory.
Am I implying that McGrady's moments were kinda ersatz? Did that ump call that strike so T-Mac could have his moment? No, of course not: I would never sully the integrity of the Atlantic League Home Run Derby and/or the Atlantic League All-Star Game, two pristine events that for no apparent reason are available for live, instant viewing on ESPN3.
Here are today's most random sporting events on ESPN3:
Caribbean Premier League Cricket, Antigua Hawksbills vs. Jamaica Tallawahs, 3:20 p.m.
This is a league of one-day cricket matches played around the Caribbean, founded last year. It was founded last year and it has the dopest logos. I am probably a St. Lucia Zouks fan. I also DEMAND to know whether people from Barbuda are pissed off that the team is the "Antigua Hawksbills" even though the country is "Antigua and Barbuda."
World Lacrosse Championships, Costa Rica vs. Colombia, 4 p.m.
Okay, you get it: there are a lot of lacrosse games, some between countries that don't play lacrosse! WHY ARE THESE AVAILABLE FOR INSTANT STREAMING WHO IS WATCHING THESE
However, this is especially Why-is-this-available-for-instant-streaming: Unlike many tournaments, the World Lacrosse Championships do not send you home when you are eliminated from winning. You get to keep playing, because, hell, you already made hotel reservations. They have you keep playing until you find precisely how good you are.
Colombia is 0-5, they have lost their five games by 53 goals. They lost 19-0 to Finland, who is not particularly good. Costa Rica is 0-5, and they have lost their five games by 82 goals. They just lost 23-3 to Korea, who lost to Uganda, who lost their three group games by 32 goals.
Of the 38 teams at the World Lacrosse Championships, these are the 37th and 38th best. This is the 37th place game.
Before the World Cup, we delved into qualification results to find who the worst soccer team in the world was. It was tough, since the worst teams in the world rarely play each other. They get blown out and lose far before they reach the World Cup.
On the one hand, it's nice that one of these teams will get to win a game. They can go back to their country feeling good. On the other, this game will actually decide who the worst lacrosse country to field a team is. They will go home the only team in the competition to lose every game.
There is no good reason we should be able to watch the 37th-place game at the lacrosse championships, but, dammit, we might. These were probably our two favorite non-United States teams at the World Cup, so maybe it'll cross over? Who knows.