Major League Baseball’s All-Star break is right around the corner. Teams’ last game of the first-half of the regular season is Sunday July 10, with the Home Run Derby the following day, and the All-Star game on Tuesday the 12th.
The Home Run Derby – the annual event where the best hitters in the game meet to see who can mash the most balls over the fence – is the only skill event of the MLB’s All-Star break.
During the NBA’s mid-season pause there are multiple different competitions beside the actual All-Star game, and when people actually watched the Pro Bowl the NFL also used to do skills competitions.
The MLB needs to display the skills of all the talented players in its league.
Here are a few suggestions how:
1. Bunt Placing
Although a bit of a lost art in today’s game, bunting is still incredibly important.
Few things make steam come from a manager’s ears quite like a player not being able to get the bunt down, or hitting the bunt right back to the pitcher.
The concept of this event is something my team did in high school.
Place circles of varying size (we used hula hoops, but I imagine the MLB could use something a little better) around the infield.
Two would go in front of the cutout of the grass surrounding home plate, one to the left, one to the right. Two more 30 feet down the line, again one on each side. The last two rings 30 feet further down the base paths and right on top of the line.
Most baseballs in the rings win.
2. Throw from the Outfield
Anyone that has played on a Little League team has done this. Everyone lines up in the outfield, you get the ball out of the bucket and throw it as hard as you can towards home plate hoping to get the right bounce or roll so the ball goes into the bucket.
Basically the same idea here, just a bigger field and better athletes.
As important as it is for outfielders to hit their cutoff man, a lot of today’s pro outfielders have some of the strongest arms we’ve ever seen in the history of the game.
This contest is designed for guys like the Angels Mike Trout, the Orioles Adam Jones, and even the Dodgers Yasiel Puig.
Start in medium-depth center field, advance to deep left, and then into the corner in right field. Have a coach hit baseballs to whatever player is up, whether it be pop flys, ground balls, liners, so they can get a little momentum.
Then try to hit the target at home plate.
3. Catch the Runner Stealing / Steal the Base
Similarly to an outfielder trying to cut down a runner at home to save a run, one of the many jobs of a catcher is to throw out a runner attempting to steal second base and get into scoring position.
A good base runner, though, knows just how to take the extra base.
For this event split the players up three catchers and three runners per league, and the teams can score points in two ways.
They can either score by the catcher throwing out the runner at second, or by the runner successfully swiping the bag.
Wouldn’t it be awesome to see Billy Hamilton trying to steal a base on Salvador Perez, or watching Yadier Molina trying to gun down Jose Altuve at second base? Fans should be reminded that the swim move isn’t just in football or in the pool. (Video below)
4. Rob the Home Run
When it comes to home runs, the only thing more exciting than hitting a home run is an outfielder bringing one back over the fence.
Diving grabs are great, but a leaping home-run-robbing catch is in a class of its own in web gem lore.
Most baseballs kept in the yard wins in this competition.
Something tells me Kevin Pillar has a decent chance of winning.
5. Jeter Throw
Few players in any sport have their name turned into a verb or an adjective. Derek Jeter is one of those players.
His patented back-handed grab, turning jump throw to first has arguably changed the way players on the left side of the infield play the game.
However, as great as the Jeter throw done to perfection looks, if done incorrectly with a throw not on target, it goes from a play on the highlight reel to one on the blooper reel.
In this contest, not only does the throw have to be on target, but it also has to be in time to get out the runner at first base.