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Hey Now, You're An All-Star

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Jeff, Mike, my son Mark & his friend and I were walking out of the Cell after the Home Run Derby last night when I remarked to Jeff how nice it was to walk out of that place without hearing someone yell "Cubs suck!" Of course, someone picked that very moment to start shouting just that.

Just thought I'd get that little dig in. Even at a fun, festive event, the Sox fan simply cannot let his anger go. Oh, well.

The rest of the evening was, in fact, fun and festive. We got there in time to watch the batting practices, which were supposed to be part of the show, as Gene Honda, the Sox PA announcer, spent time announcing who was batting, and there were interviews, etc. during the BP's. Too bad they didn't continue this concept during the HR derby -- it would have been nice to hear some of the ESPN commentary (I watched a bit of the replay of the event on ESPN2 after I got home) during the contest itself, especially for those of us who had the partially obstructed seats near the huge CF patio. Not complaining about the seats, which were actually pretty good, but the patio does block part of the view of right field. It was a good gauge for the game tonight, because after seeing all the balls fly off the bats of left-handed hitters like winner Garret Anderson and Jason Giambi, I now have a really good idea of exactly what kind of fly ball will leave the park and what will be an out, based on the trajectories of the balls!

You can tell when MLB's sponsors have taken over. I had a thought that I might watch part of the event from the patio, where you have a nice view of the entire field. Nope, that's a private ESPN party. There were also hundreds of people crowded around a temporary TV booth set up on the LF concourse. I finally got a look at who was in there -- it was the ridiculous Tom Arnold, host of that silly sports show on Fox Sports Net that has the swear word in its title. Walked away from that one pretty quick.

There were a few players signing autographs during BP but with literally hundreds of people crowding the seats near the field, it was impossible to get close enough to get any. Maybe today. We did see a couple of large men walk down the aisle we were sitting in to get to their seats, who looked like pro athletes, but we didn't recognize them. I suspect they were football players, from their builds.

Two people I've never heard of did the national anthems -- I'm told Brian McKnight is pretty popular, but to me, it sounds like a guy who used to be a utility infielder for the Astros. The only really bizarre, discordant note about the evening was sounded by a group called the Ariels, who were far too much bar-band for an event like this; they did a medley of their hit (and I can't even remember the name of it), and then a really lame-sounding cover of Don Henley's "Boys of Summer". Even worse, the speakers were set up on a bunch of mobile carts, facing the main stands, so those of us in the outfield heard just muffled noise. Better would have been to simply put their audio on the PA system, which has actually been toned down at the Cell since last year.

About the HR derby itself -- gee, it started out slow. I mean, here are batting practice pitchers specifically chosen by each participant, and Bret Boone whiffs? Embarrassing. Then Albert Pujols and Jason Giambi started to put on a show, sending a number of bombs to all fields. Nothing exceeded 500 feet, which Jeff & I agreed is because the throws are coming in at 70 MPH. If you get the fastball you're looking for in a game situation, you can hit the ball much farther. The closest ball that came to us in section 164, was, of all things, an opposite-field shot by Jim Edmonds that landed about 5 rows in front of us. I had actually gone out and bought a new glove for the occasion, to learn that I had, without knowing it, bought nearly exactly an identical glove to Mike's (though, of course, he throws lefty).

It was a fun evening -- so nice to be at a ballpark and just relax, without keeping score (though they did hand out scorecards, I didn't bother). There were nearly as many Cub fans, judging from shirts and caps, as Sox fans, but there were plenty of fans of other teams there too. Brian is sitting with us tonight, and though I thought he was going to be in the lower deck, he called and said he and his girlfriend Kristy got upper deck tickets, so I met him on the concourse to give him his ticket for tonight. I also managed to find my way down an unguarded aisle entrance, and tried to find Dave in his Sox season seats, but he hadn't arrived yet. Hope to find him there tonight.

Sights seen: so many, hard to mention them all, but here are some highlights: a huge tent set up in the 34th & Shields parking lot, for tonight's postgame invitation-only parties, but it was empty last night; people walking up and down the concourse toward the end of the HR Derby holding up signs looking for tickets for tonight (and coming up empty); a guy selling All-Star merchandise (maybe counterfeit?) right under a sign on 33rd Street that said "No Peddling"; two kids with a lemonade stand at 32nd & Canal with a big cardboard star that said "All-Star Lemonade". We were in a rush so didn't get any, but they were throwing in a free cookie for the 75 cents; and of course, virtually everyone in the outfield seats where we were, brandishing a baseball glove.

As predicted, it rained and stormed hard this morning, but the rain's done now and it's supposed to clear out by afternoon and be absolutely gorgeous weather for the game tonight. Will of course report here tomorrow morning.