DENVER – The bottom of Tuesday’s first inning started with Fernando Tatis Jr., who is arguably the sport’s most magnetic star, taking on Shohei ohtani, arguably the most unique talent in baseball history. A quick recon was followed by two fastballs, then a slider, then a spread finger fastball, and then another slider. Ohtani triggered a flyover. Tatis returned to the dugout puzzled.
“He gave me everything!” Tatis exclaimed. “I thought he was just going to hit me straight. Come on man, shoot a hundred!”
A dark cloud has hung over Major League Baseball in recent weeks. Incessant conversations about the industry’s problems with foreign substances were followed by horrific allegations of sexual assault against the highest-paid player in the sport, all in the context of endless worry about the future of baseball.
But sometimes the game takes over and nothing else seems to matter.
Sometimes balls fly, personalities come to light, young stars emerge, and the hype surrounding these big events becomes reality. This All-Star Game, won by the American League 5-2, produced all of that. It served as a much-needed break from the problems that plague the sport, perhaps even an acknowledgment that some of them might be overdone. It was also an emphatic representation of the normalization of life amid the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrated by the electric crowds that filled Coors Field for the past two nights.
“Baseball is back,” Tatis declared. “The real energy, the real vibe.”
This All-Star Game and the events surrounding it had many winners, none more than the fans.
Here are five others.
Vlad Jr. entered this list simply with his glove.
Vladdy Jr. made a glove out of this iconic photo for the ASG 🔥
– ESPN (@espn) July 13, 2021
He then hit a 1-1 slider over the plate for Corbin burnes and hit a 468-foot home run, the longest in the All-Star Game in 10 years. It was their second ball hit over 110 mph, and it came 15 years after their father’s All-Star home run, making them the third father-son duo to accomplish that feat, alongside Bobby and Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. At 22 years and 119 days old, he became the youngest player to hit home runs in the All-Star Game since Johnny Bench. In the end, it also earned him the MVP.
“I made a promise to them that I would win it,” Guerrero said, “and luckily I’m bringing it back.”
All-Star Week also served to celebrate Ohtani’s unprecedented first half. The cameras followed him everywhere. The fellow players gaped at his exploits. Members of the media huddled around the dugout, expecting him to just venture outside. Ohtani headlined a star-studded event, and somehow it didn’t disappoint.
On Monday, he participated in an epic showdown with Juan Soto, racking up 28 home runs, 15 of which traveled over 475 feet and six of which made it to 500. Ohtani eventually lost in the third tiebreaker, then slept until 10:30 am, arrived at the stadium a few hours later, practiced at batting cages and hit the field around 5:30 pm to begin his warm-up prior to his opening.
At the top of the first inning, Ohtani had a hit taken away. At the bottom of the first, he retired Fernando Tatis Jr., Max muncy Y Nolan Arenado in order, the latter of which saw consecutive 100 mph straights.
At the end of the night, unsurprisingly, Ohtani was the game’s winning pitcher.
“It was definitely more fun than nervous,” Ohtani said through her interpreter. “I definitely want to go back to the All-Star Game.”
Ohtani’s list of milestones is already overwhelming. He’s the first player to: be selected to the All-Star Game as a pitcher and batter, hit 20 home runs and strike out 80 batters in the same season, combine 10 starts with 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases in the same season, hit 32 home runs and 12 stolen bases by the All-Star Game, over and over again. Babe Ruth is the only close comparison, and even Bambino himself doesn’t do justice to Ohtani’s two-way prowess.
His excellence is almost indescribable, but Freddie freeman made a valid attempt to capture it:
“I don’t even understand how his brain can switch from ‘I have to get three outs, then I have to score a run for myself.’ I don’t understand that in a Major League baseball game. Every time he’s on the field, it amazes you. That he has the energy, the mental energy to handle that. I see the guys pitch. When they pitch, they execute the plan in the game that they had before. But with him, he’s planning the game and then he has to do batting practice in the field. cage. He literally has a 12 hour day every day. It’s amazing, because then he does so many throws, then you have to take care of your arm the next day, you have to get all the lactic acid out of your body, and then you have to DH for night. Every day, I’m in awe. I really am. I’m happy that someone is doing it. I don’t know if anyone will ever do it the way Shohei is doing, but at least that door has been opened and maybe we’ll let people try a little more. ”
Nolan Arenado’s jerseys graced Coors Field these past two nights, a lingering reminder of what he missed on the first day of February when a mismanaged Colorado Rockies franchise traded its star player to the St. Louis Cardinals.
This week, however, Arenado was locker roommates with his former teammate. Trevor story, and for a brief moment, it felt like nothing had changed.
“It’s like he’s never gone,” Story said Monday afternoon. Hours later, Arenado served as Story’s assistant for the Home Run Derby, keeping him hydrated and cheering the crowd on during intermissions. The following afternoon, Arenado, returning to Coors Field for the second time this month, received a raucous applause.
Special moment as Nolan Arenado gets introduced in Colorado, where he was a 5x All-Star before being traded to the Cardinals ❤
– ESPN (@espn) July 14, 2021
“He needed it,” said his former teammate, the Rockies starter. German Marquez.
Arenado called it “one of the best things I have had in my life, in my career. I am very grateful for it.”
Arenado grew up and became a star in Denver. For eight years, from 21 in 2013 to 29 in 2020, he established himself as arguably the best third baseman in the game. He was a magnificent defender, a fierce hitter, a prominent presence. And yet part of him wasn’t sure how that would be appreciated.
“I think we can all understand that,” Arenado said. “Sometimes when you do the job, and you do it well, sometimes it doesn’t show. Sometimes you want to be appreciated for what you did. And that’s in everyday life. It can be anything. You do something with someone, I want to. Thank you, I guess, in a way. Not that you want to be thanked, but the fact that they did means a lot. “
The Derby finalists
The Mets first baseman beats Trey Mancini in the final to win the Home Run Derby for the second year in a row.
Mancini was an inspiration. He spent the 2020 season undergoing biweekly chemotherapy treatments in his recovery from stage 3 colon cancer, struggled to recover, lost a dear friend to brain cancer along the way, won an invitation to the home run contest, and almost won everything.
“I think it can be an example that you can go back to your normal life, even if you sometimes have this on you,” Mancini said. “That is the message I really wanted to convey.”
Alonso was a force of nature. He exuded confidence throughout the night – declining to sip Gatorade, cheering on the crowd during down times, continually shaking his head to New York hip-hop, and wielding a flamboyant bat that contained his life story. Alonso owned the event, becoming the third consecutive Derby winner of all time. Later, he declared himself “the best power hitter on the planet.”
Who can dispute such an honor?
Hendriks didn’t know he was still hooked up to the TV mic while he worked the ninth inning. He could no longer hear the FOX broadcast, so he thought he was off the air. And that’s why he launched as he normally would, which meant throwing a lot of swear words on national television.
Hendriks’ ninth inning was an event. He mixed up a knuckle ball, just for fun, and worked around a couple hits to finish the game. As ESPN’s Marly Rivera noted : The All-Star winning pitcher was a Japanese two-way player. The MVP was a 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic. And the save was for a 32-year-old Australian.
This all came about in the wake of myopic comments about Shohei Ohtani’s understanding of the English language, at an event who had moved from town due to concerns about voting laws supposedly hampering minorities, and it was perfect.