“I promised you I’d win it”
DENVER – The end of Tuesday began with Fernando Tatis Jr., arguably the sport’s most magnetic star, battling Shohei Ohtani, arguably the most unique talent in baseball history. A quick confirmation was followed by two fastballs, then a slider, then a splitter, then another slider. Ohtani arranged for an excursion. Tatis returned to the shelter, confused.
“He gave me everything!” exclaimed Tatis. “I thought he was just giving me fastballs. Come on, man – you throw a hundred! “
A dark cloud has hung over Major League Baseball for the past few weeks. Continuous conversations about the industry’s problems with foreign substances were followed by heinous allegations of sexual assault against the sport’s highest paid player, all against a backdrop of endless concerns about the future of baseball.
But sometimes the game takes over and nothing else seems to matter.
Sometimes the balls fly, the personalities come out, the young stars emerge and the hype surrounding these major events is actually realized. This all-star game – which was won 5-2 by the American League – provided. It was a much-needed break from the problems that plague the sport, perhaps even an acknowledgment that some of them may be exaggerated. It was also a powerful display of life normalizing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrated by the electric crowds that filled Coors Field for the past two nights.
“Baseball is back,” said Tatis. “The real energy, the real mood.”
This all-star game and the events that surround it had many winners, none more than the fans.
Here are five more.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Vlad Jr. cracked that list with his glove.
Vladdy Jr. made a glove for the ASG from this iconic photo 🔥
(via @MLB) pic.twitter.com/oQn15N7JRj
– ESPN (@espn) July 13, 2021
Then he hit a 1-1 Corbin Burnes slider across the record and smoked a 468-foot home run, the longest in the All-Star game in 10 years. It was his second hit ball at over 110 mph, and it came 15 years after his father’s all-star game homer, making them the third father-son duo to do that feat alongside Bobby and Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Sr Ken Griffey Jr. At 22 years and 119 days he was the youngest player to become homer in the All-Star Game since Johnny Bench. Ultimately, it earned him the MVP as well.
Guerrero’s teammates, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and George Springer, told him on Friday that if he goes to the All-Star Game, he might as well win the MVP.
“I promised them I would win it,” Guerrero said in Spanish, “and luckily I’ll bring it back.”
All-Star Week was also a celebration of the unprecedented first half of Ohtani. Cameras followed him everywhere. Teammates were amazed at his exploits. Media representatives huddled around the dugout, waiting for him to simply venture outside. Ohtani was headlining a high profile event and somehow he didn’t disappoint.
Here’s what you need to know about this year’s Midsummer Classic celebrations in Denver. Full Coors Field coverage
On Monday, he had an epic showdown with Juan Soto, racking up 28 home runs – 15 of which covered 475 feet and six of which hit 500. Ohtani eventually lost in the third tiebreaker and then slept until 10:30 a.m. He arrived at the ballpark a few hours later, hit the batting cages, and stepped onto the field around 5:30 p.m. to begin his pre-start warm-up.
In the top of the first, a base goal was taken away from Ohtani. In the lower part of the first, he sequentially retired Fernando Tatis Jr., Max Muncy, and Nolan Arenado, the latter of which saw 100 mph fastballs in a row.
At the end of the night, Ohtani was fittingly the winning pitcher of the game.
“It was definitely more fun than nervous,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “I definitely want to be part of the All-Star Game again.”
The list of Ohtani milestones is already terrifying. He is the first player to: was selected as a pitcher and hitter for the All-Star Game, hit 20 home runs and 80 batter in the same season, 10 starts combined with 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases in the same season, 32 home runs and 12 stoles Reach bases through the All-Star Break, on and on. Babe Ruth is the only close comparison, and even The Bambino itself doesn’t do justice to Ohtani’s two-way ability.
His Excellency is almost indescribable, but Freddie Freeman has made a valid attempt to capture it:
“I don’t even understand how the brain can get out of the flip-flop: ‘I have to do three outs and then I have to get a run for myself.’ I don’t understand that in a big league ball game. Every time he’s on the field you’re just amazed that he has the energy, the mental energy to deal with it. I watch the guys pitch. When they pitch , the game – planning that goes on in the games – he plans the game and then has to do hit practice in the cage. He literally has a 12 hour day every day. It’s amazing because then he throws so many hits Then you have to do your arm care the next day you have to get all of the lactic acid out of your body and then you have to go on DH at night. Every day I am amazed. It really is me. I am just happy about it I don’t know if anyone will ever do it the way Shohei does, but at least the door has opened that we might let people try at least a little more.
Nolan Arenado jerseys graced Coors Field for the past two nights, a lingering reminder of what was lost on the first day of February when a badly managed Colorado Rockies franchise handed its marquee player to the St. Louis Cardinals.
This week, however, Arenado was dating his former teammate Trevor Story, and for a brief moment it felt like nothing had changed.
“It’s like he never left,” said Story on Monday afternoon. Hours later, Arenado served as the story hype man for the home run derby, keeping him hydrated and pumping the crowd during the breaks. The following afternoon, Arenado, who was returning to Coors Field for the second time that month, was presented with a loud ovation.
Special moment when Nolan Arenado is introduced in Colorado, where he was 5x All-Star before he was sold to the Cardinals ❤❤
(via @MLB) pic.twitter.com/m7mosOJyRG
– ESPN (@espn) July 14, 2021
“He needed that,” said his former teammate, Rockies starter German Marquez, in Spanish.
Arenado called it “one of the better things I’ve ever had in my life, in my career. I’m very grateful for that.”
Arenado grew up and became a star in Denver. For eight years, from 21 years in 2013 to 29 years in 2020, he established himself as arguably the game’s greatest third baseman. He was a great defender, a ferocious batsman, an upright presence. Yet part of him wasn’t sure how that would be appreciated.
“I think we can all understand that,” said Arenado. “Sometimes when you do the job and do a good job, sometimes it goes unnoticed. Sometimes you want to be valued for what you’ve done. And that is in everyday life. It can be anything I want you to say thank you in a way. Not that I want you to say thank you, but the fact that you did mean a lot. “
The derby finalists
Pete Alonso overtakes Trey Mancini in the final and wins the home run derbies in a row.
The Home Run Derby went to Pete Alonso and Trey Mancini, two finalists who, for very different reasons, were pure joy.
Mancini was an inspiration. He spent the 2020 season undergoing bi-weekly chemotherapy to recover from stage 3 colon cancer, battling his way back, losing a dear friend to brain cancer along the way, receiving an invitation to the home run hitting competition, and almost had the whole won.
“I think it can be an example of how you can get back to your normal life even if this thing hangs over you at times,” said Mancini. “That’s the message I really wanted to get across.”
Alonso was a force of nature. He exuded confidence all night – decreasing sips of Gatorade, the crowd bouncing up during timeouts, constantly swinging his head to New York hip-hop, and brandishing a flamboyant bat that contained his life story. Alonso owned the event and became the third derby winner ever. He then declared himself “the best power hitter on the planet”.
Who could argue?
Hendriks did not know that he was still miking when he navigated through the ninth inning. He couldn’t hear the FOX broadcast anymore, so he thought he was clear. And so he hit like he normally would – which meant a lot of swearing on national television.
Hendriks’ ninth inning was an event. He mixed in a knuckleball just for fun and worked a few hits to finish the game. As ESPN’s Marly Rivera pointed out, the All-Star game winning pitcher was a Japanese two-way player. The MVP was a 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic. And the Save went to a 32-year-old from Australia.
It came after short-sighted comments on Shohei Ohtani’s command of English, in an event postponed due to concerns about electoral laws allegedly disabling minorities – and it was perfect.