The very first thing I wrote for Pinstripe Alley earlier this season was a piece on my thoughts and reactions from a Rockies game – the first I attended since covid-19 changed the world. Today, after Home Run Derby and All-Star Game tickets fell into my lap Monday morning, I get to write a second article related to my thoughts about Coors Field. This time it’s about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch and appreciate baseball’s best.
Monday night: The Home Run Derby was an absolute spectacle. If the stadium had had a roof, the introduction of Shohei Ohtani would have blown it off. Fans were stoked to see the Angels’ phenom… they had to wait, though, as Ohtani vs. Juan Soto closed out the opening round.
Before that, the crowd quickly coalesced behind Trey Mancini of the Orioles, who recently overcame a bout with cancer. After Mancini knocked out Matt Olson (I was sitting with a friend and Astros fan who booed the latter mercilessly) and hometown hero Trevor Story eliminated perhaps-future-Yankee Joey Gallo, the Denver crowd was guaranteed a feel-good story would at least advance to the final round.
It was obvious from the start, though, that Pete Alonso was dialed in. Seriously. He hit 25 home runs prior to his one minute of bonus time in the first round. Almost everyone else prior to him took up valuable seconds of their bonus time to get their swing back. But Alonso was dancing and looked like he was absolutely on fire before going into his final minute. I turned to my Astros fan friend and called the bonus total. Ten homeruns from Alonzo in sixty seconds. He did not make a liar out of me. If only he wasn’t a Met.
But everyone was waiting for Ohtani and Soto… and they did not disappoint. Titanic bomb after titanic bomb had the live crowd in awe. I was sitting 20 rows back from field level behind the first base line, and watching their moonshots soar towards and into the upper deck in right field is one of the most surreal things I have ever seen. Shouts in unison of “oh my GOD!” were pretty common as those two dueled. The crowd was deflated when Ohtani bowed out in the three-swing second tiebreaker, but he and Soto put on an absolute clinic.
Juan Soto is 22 years old.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 13, 2021
He hit the longest HR ever tracked at the HR Derby, with an estimated distance of 520 feet. #Coors#HRDerby // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/yUu4olaOgt
It was pretty apparent early that this was Alonso’s night, much to the delight of the Mets fan directly behind me who yelled “Let’s go, Pete!” at least fifty times Monday. No one was beating the Polar Bear. It was a moral victory that Mancini at least made Alonso use bonus time in the final round. One day I want to see Alonso face off with Aaron Judge and watch those two right-handed behemoths send moonshots into orbit while the live crowd looks on in shock.
Favorite Derby Moments:
3) Former Rockie and crowd favorite Nolan Arenado coming out to psyche up Trevor Story during the latter’s timeout while hitting. Denver still loves Arenado, as well they should.
2) Ohtani vs. Soto… all of it. Ohtani’s exit velocities were amazing. As an aside, I’d love to see him and Stanton pair off and see who can hit a baseball faster than the speed of sound.
1) The foregone conclusion that was Pete Alonso’s victory in the final round. I would have been more surprised if the sun hadn’t risen Tuesday morning than I would have been had Alonso not won the Derby.
Tuesday night: The All-Star Game itself. These tickets were not quite as good, but we still had a great view of the game from the second-highest row in the right field corner in foul territory. Coming into Coors Field before the start, it was thrilling to see the Yankees well-represented among the fans who came to the game. There were easily more people in Yankees gear than any team other than the Rockies, at least from what I saw.
The tribute to Hank Aaron at the beginning of the game, which was originally supposed to happen in Atlanta, was a bit tear-inducing. I was definitely choked up by the time it ended, as the montage reinforced the all-time legend’s importance not just to baseball, but to modern America. Seeing Aaron Judge escort Billye Aaron out with Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman was another poignant moment for me.
It really struck me during player introductions that this game was going to knock a whole bunch of players off my baseball bucket list. Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole (though I still can’t say I saw the latter actually play, and well he should not have after his Saturday night masterpiece), Max Scherzer, Vlad Guerrero, Jr., Shohei Ohtani, Juan Soto, and on and on.
Shortly after I posted some pictures to social media, messages “requesting” All-Star swag came in from friends back in Canada. Being a relatively nice guy, I decided to accommodate them and ran for some baseballs prior to Aaron Judge’s second at-bat (I was determined not to miss anything he did). Good news… I made it back to my seats for that. Bad (and enraging) news… I missed Vladdy’s monstrous 468-foot dinger.
Every Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homer is absolutely majestic.pic.twitter.com/De9qbYkoDw— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) July 14, 2021
I was mildly irked when I heard the gasp and then roar of the Coors crowd, knowing that Guerrero had just parked one and that I missed it. Vlad got my vote for MVP, and while I worried I had voted too soon when Kris Bryant had the chance to hit an ASG grand slam, ultimately I chose correctly.
Favorite All-Star Game moments:
3) Basking in the crowd booing Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole. “They don’t boo nobodies,” as Reggie Jackson once said.
2) Aaron Judge’s walk and subsequent run scored to put the AL on the board, and then his nice catch in right field later in the game.
1) The Hank Aaron tribute. I am a baseball nut and a graduate student in history. Baseball history is my jam.
I knew the All-Star Game was a possibility, but I never actually expected it to come together. I consider myself profoundly lucky to have been able to attend while I am living in the United States. With Canada only having one team right now, the odds of the ASG coming to my homeland on a regular basis are pretty slim.
Having seen baseball’s brightest stars gathered together in an amazing stadium, it is time to turn my attention to the second half. Hopefully, All-Stars Judge and Cole can help lead the charge that ends with the Yankees celebrating another championship this fall.