Monday, July 14, 2014

The Home Run Derby: Why I Think We Watch

Players hit balls.
Players hit balls far.
Players hit balls as far as they can.
Players hit balls as far as they can as many times as they can.

This is the Home Run Derby in a nutshell.  Baseball players take turns trying to hit as many home runs as possible before making seven "outs," with an "out" in this case being anything that is not a home run or a pitch taken by the batter.  Whoever hits the most home runs wins.

Well, I oversimplified the description a little bit, especially now that the rules have changed.  But the Derby winner does have to hit lots of home runs, and that's what I think makes the contest so great.

In fact, I think it's the number of home runs players hit that pulls me in personally as opposed to the distances.

Seeing Josh Hamilton hit 28 homers in a single round at Yankee Stadium back in 2008 was awesome.*  The laser show that Yoenis Cespedes put on last year was astounding.  And I'm looking forward to watching Cespedes and Giancarlo Stanton duke it out in a little more than an hour.

With all that said, I still hope the pair of sluggers, especially Stanton, hit the ball far.

So what's the real reason we (or at least I) love the Derby so much?

Without any specific research, I would guess it's some primal joy we have in watching a competition in which athletes use their abilities to repeatedly bash tiny objects long distances with sticks. A college professor of mine once assured me that certain physical exertions like crawling are part of human nature and I think it's sort of the same thing with the Home Run Derby.  

I could be wrong, of course, but pretty soon I'm not going to care all that much.  

It's almost time for the Derby and I want to watch.

*The number of home runs Hamilton hit in the first round in 2008 came from the article, "All eyes on Stanton in new-look Home Run Derby," by Anthony Castrovince.

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