I have very pleasant memories of the home run derby. When the All Star Game came to Arlington in 1995, we not only got tickets to the game, but also were determined to get on TV for the home run derby. We bought tickets for the HRD in the left field stands or the Ballpark in Arlington for the whole family and took those days off from work. We had a plan.
Although the kids were only eight and five years old, they needed to be involved because who knows when the next time the All Star Game will come to your town? The weekend before we went into my office armed with banner creating software and a bunch of cardboard boxes. Using my office laser jet printer, we created 10 signs that had letters 10 inches tall. We tore apart the cardboard boxes and pasted the signs on the cardboard such that they could be folded and easily carried in a clear garbage sack. Some were even a tri-fold because they were so long.
Upon entering the Ballpark, the guy at the gate inspected my sack of signs very carefully, even by post-9-11 standards, but eventually he let us in. All week the temperature had been in the upper 90’s with high humidity most days and today was no different. Since they taped the HRD during the day, we had to be there in a fire pit. It was a miserable day. The seats were so hot you could have fried an egg on them. We had some water and used it to cool down the seats. There was no way we were staying in the sun this whole time. Many people had water spray bottles and sunscreen, but it was unbearable. We took turns spending some time in the air conditioned Diamond Club just to keep from frying. The other issue was that the left field stands were packed. Everyone wanted one of the special all star balls with the blue and white stitching.
As the HRD began we returned to our seats amid the chaos. The people around us started asking “what are those?” We explained that we would be rating every home run and lifting up a sign when one was hit, would they want to help? They did, which was nice, because the signs were so big that they were going to get in some people’s way. It was good to have a few more people on our side. We explained that one sign would always be held up. It read “ESPN Ding-o-Meter!” Gaye was in charge of that sign. Then depending on the type of homer that was hit, the second sign would rate the homer. I was the one who usually got to decide what sign would go up. The signs we had read:
Put it on the Board
Not Gonna Get It
Left in a hurry
I don’t really remember most of the participants were or who won. I seem to recall Frank Thomas and Albert Belle hitting a lot of homers. We were too busy with our signs to worry about how many were being hit. If we were smarter, we would have added number signs, but since the kids were too small, we didn’t attempt that.
We had a great time rating the homers and it helps keep us on our toes. The only problem was when Albert Belle hit a homer right near us. The entire crowd surged toward the ball and a mad scramble ensured. Matt, my then 4 year old son was actually under his seat, escaping the sun, when the ball came to rest on his chest. The throng nearly crushed him trying to get the ball, and finally some 300 pound guy emerged with the ball. Matt was OK after a while, but it was a traumatizing experience. He didn’t care about the ball at all, but two nice people gave him a ball, just so he wouldn’t be upset. We somehow made it through the HRD alive. When we got home, we posed with our signs and sat down to watch the HRD on TV to see if we got any face time. Alas, we never got our close-up, although there were times you could see our signs. There were still very difficult to read across the ballpark. The closest the camera got was when Belle’s ball disrupted us.
The funniest quote from this experience was from my boss’s secretary. When I returned to work on Tuesday she commented “This printer cartridge must be defective. I just changed it two weeks ago and now it says it’s out of toner!” I just giggled a lot in my office.
It was an All Star memory we will never forget.