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Driving from NYC to Washington DC in a fast car, blasting Pusha-T and Jigga to catch the 2018 Home Run Derby and MLB All-Star game, it was very hard not to speed. But a co-worker and I did, in fact, hit 100-plus mph in certain stretches. Shit, we made it back to NYC in a little over three hours with the top down the whole way without a speeding ticket. I mean, what’s the point of driving a car like that without opening that bad boy up? Isn’t this what America is all about? Muscle cars and baseball in the nation’s capital, as experienced by a Colombian and a Puerto Rican from the New York area, sounds pretty damn patriotic if you ask me.
Why is this relevant? Because both days were hella patriotic as if our country weren’t deporting people from the same countries some of the game’s best players were from and let 4,645 Puerto Rican American citizens die in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. I found celebrating America in such a grandiose way grossly ironic, especially in the Year of Our Lord 2018, don’t you? I wasn’t surprised but it’s like damn, y’all know a lot of those guys y’all cheering for are immigrants that can hardly speak English, right? Major League Baseball is a sport whose star players are mostly made up of Latin Americans and Latin immigrants of all different colors and countries. Out of the 73 All-Stars this year, about 25 players are either from Latin America or have parents from those countries with maybe a handful of African-Americans sprinkled in. This was all interesting to me as I was in D.C. for the second time in my life. My first visit was quicker than this one. I had been on assignment to interview Delonte West a few years ago but it never came to fruition. A photographer and I took a three-hour train ride for West to change his mind and cancel the interview once we got there.
This time around I was able to explore the city more. I checked out the Burning Man exhibit at Renwick Gallery, had some Half Smokes from Ben’s Chili Bowl (shouts to the late, great Anthony Bourdain), downed some fried chicken and fries in Mumbo sauce, and got a crash course in the city’s gentrification problem from a Lyft driver on our way to the Home Run Derby. We drove by a park on the Southside with a baseball field complete with a scoreboard, pool, basketball, and tennis courts and football/soccer AstroTurf field. He let us know that the city never had money for the park before they knocked down the projects across the street. Then they built high rise condos. When I asked where did the people living in those projects go, he speculated, “More than likely out of the District in Maryland somewhere.” This is America, people.
I love baseball, but, real talk, the shit is boring as fuck sometimes, so it would help to peak my interest by allowing us Twitter users to post gifs and highlights without worrying about our account getting suspended.
Now as far as the Derby and the All-Star Game? They’re up there with the best MLB All-Star festivities I’ve seen in all my years. Future Yankee Bryce Harper, with his horrible music taste and over-the-top patriotism, was able to pull off an amazing comeback in the final round of the Derby to beat Kyle Schwarber in front of his home crowd. Phillies OF Rhys Hoskins set the tone with 17 HRs in the first round (37 total) upsetting Milwaukee’s Jesus Aguilar. I was personally rooting for fellow Bori Javier Baez and Bryce because I wanted to feel that hometown energy. The vibe was pretty cool in the crowd overall, with a lot of the focus going to watching the kids in the outfield make plays. We applauded every impressive caught ball, and sighed at every dropped one. Not to mention the classic ending, whether you believer Harper and is pops cheated or not (what is wrong with you nerds?)
As for the game? That was lit, too. I got to watch my guy Aaron Judge hit a bomb, setting off what would be a record 10 home runs in the All-Star game. Another ironic thing about the MLB’s All-Star “weekend” was the amount of rap and reggaeton the players walked up to being that the league is lacking in terms of African-American ball players. There were a lot of young white kids in the crowd, and not nearly enough Latino or Black youths, mainly because those demographics may not have the disposable income to purchase All-Star game tickets. I’m in the minority on the old World Series home-field advantage rule because it did make the game more interesting. The MLB should consider maybe allowing a sub or two to bring back the best players if the game is close in the last innings. I’m not watching to see a random reserve player end games. This year was good, though, historic even with a record 10 HRs, which a microcosm of what’s going on in the game these days: strikeouts and homers. We thought the game was over when Jean Segura (Stanton had better numbers BTW) hit a 3-run shot to give the AL a 5-2 lead, so we left because we wanted to make it back to NYC at a decent time. Baseball should also consider making this a weekend thing.
I think the issue is pro baseball lagging behind on social media and in turn alienating a younger generation in caring about the sport. Recently, they MLB and Twitter suspended pitching coach and GIF god Rob Friedman’s @PitchingNinja Twitter account for posting gifs and videos causing an uproar from fans, sports writers, and players alike. Baseball is sacrificing short-term bottom line profit for long-term interest that can eventually bring in new fans. What type of old man yelling at clouds shit is that? Then they wonder why mostly old heads who cry about bat-flipping watch the sport. The NBA has embraced memes, gifs, and the ripping of HD videos, chalking these things up to free marketing that help drive up ratings, essentially making them a year-long sport. The NFL and the MLB need to take heed as they’re being left in the dust. Marketing to these kids like they did in the ‘90s with Bo Jackson, Ken Griffey Jr., and Deion Sanders is the only way to make them care about this boring sport. Having a random Blocboy JB performance in front of a mostly white crowd isn’t going to do it, like that was a desperate attempt at pandering to “the hood,” seriously, it was low-key offensive. I heard him come out while I was buying a beer and I was utterly confused. With the vibe at the Derby, they needed to bring in Kid Rock or Ted Nugent, or maybe Bruce Springsteen with an American flag bandana. And this is coming from a lifelong baseball fan.
I love baseball, but, real talk, the shit is boring as fuck sometimes, so it would help to peak my interest by allowing us Twitter users to post gifs and highlights without worrying about our account getting suspended. The commissioner who uses the Internet to its fullest capabilities will bring MLB into the future. They were headed in the right direction when they introduced their groundbreaking streaming service. Now they need to do the same with everything else. Also, who am I kidding? I only really care about baseball when the Yankees are good. It’s championship or bust on this side. Get your shit together, MLB (and America.)