ESPN MLB commentators Karl Ravech and Eduardo Perez answered questions on Thursday via Zoom to preview the 2023 T-Mobile Home Run Derby, MLB All-Star and the 2023 MLB Draft Presented By Nike. Ravech and Perez will provide commentary for ESPN’s exclusive T-Mobile Home Run Derby broadcast on Monday, July 10, at 8 p.m. ET from T-Mobile Park in Seattle, Wash.
In addition, Phil Orlins, ESPN Vice President, Production, discussed the production highlights for the T-Mobile Home Run Derby and the MLB Draft Presented By Nike.
Ravech and Perez will help lead ESPN’s MLB Draft Presented By Nike coverage on Sunday, July 9, at 7 p.m. and appear on various editions of Baseball Tonight throughout MLB All-Star.
Below is a transcript of today’s call. For more information on ESPN’s 2023 MLB All-Star plans please visit ESPN Press Room.
PHIL ORLINS: This is always, I guess, the most special event of the year for me. Been around ESPN a long, long time. I go back to televising the first one we televised in 1993 in Baltimore when it was 30 minutes on tape and Ken Griffey Jr. hit the warehouse at Camden Yards.
To see what this event has become is really impactful and special for me. And to now be here for, I guess, on and off 31 years, it’s quite something.
To give a quick overview of our coverage, we’ll be starting it off with the MLB Draft, of course, on Sunday. This will be our fourth year covering the draft. We kind of dove into the draft in 2020 when there was a dearth of live sporting events out there during COVID, and we’ve shared coverage of the draft with MLB Network. This will be our fourth year doing it.
I will say just quickly on the draft, the backbone of our coverage, Karl hosting; Kiley McDaniel, our draft expert guru, all levels of baseball; and then we really lean heavily on the guys, including Karl, but with their college experience, which I think ESPN’s role in college baseball is obviously second to none.
We believe that we have the best in class there with Kiley McDaniel, Eduardo Perez, and Chris Burke and Kyle Peterson, who, on the hitting and pitching side, really cover college baseball day in and day out.
We’ll have Baseball Tonight at p.m. Full draft preview on Sunday on ESPN, going into the draft coverage at 7 p.m. We’ll have the entire first round and then the compensation sandwich picks all on ESPN, which should be around 10:30, and then we’ll switch over to ESPN+ for the second round.
The one noteworthy point of the draft is this will be the first year that we’re playing a little more of a level or leadership role in the structure and management of the draft coverage, whereas in the past we were a little more of an add-on with MLB Network playing kind of the lead management of it.
I don’t think that changes a whole lot, but the draft will be structured a little more consistently and quickly, probably, in its pace than it had been in previous years. So we look forward to that.
Obviously, the highlight of our coverage is Monday with Home Run Derby. We have a plethora of Baseball Tonight—we have 4 p.m., 6 p.m. Baseball Tonight, We’ll serve SportsCenter needs from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., and then we’ll have another Baseball Tonight from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. that includes Home Run Derby batting practice and the beginning of ceremonies and all of that, and then obviously the derby coverage from about 8 to about 10:45.
We’ll be on both networks, ESPN and ESPN2. I think we had close to 7 million viewers across the board last year. Close to a million of it was on ESPN2. Karl and Eduardo anchor the coverage on ESPN. It’s obviously the most visible and seen and important stuff that we do.
They’ll be joined by Buster Olney and Alden González, Alden a crucial role there with obviously a considerable amount of players that his bilingual skills will be necessary and essential.
On ESPN2 we have the Statcast coverage. This is an unparalleled, I would say, collaboration between us and MLB Statcast. I can’t adequately state the amount of hours, people, and effort that MLB puts into partnering with us on this coverage on ESPN2.
It will be hosted by Kevin Brown, many people know him from the Orioles; along with Mike Petriello from Statcast, MLB.com Statcast expert; and Jessica Mendoza.
I would just say on the ESPN2 Statcast coverage, it’s probably the best lab we have for development. We’ve continually evolved there, and things we do there filter their way into our MLB coverage or especially our Home Run Derby coverage in years to come.
This is going to be the most aggressive approach we’ve ever taken with experimentation, and we’ll show a brief clip here, but I would say that the key note to this is we have actually chosen what we did last year to show exit velocity and launch angle in real-time on one side of the screen, but we will actually replace the somewhat fragmented ball follow coverage with multiple balls in the air with a virtual three-dimensional replication, more like you probably see on golf coverage.
It will all be done on a slight delay. About 15 seconds to process that data. I’ll just show that one clip and then turn it over to Karl and Eduardo and you guys from there.
PHIL ORLINS: This is a replication from some old data plugged into T-Mobile Field, data from last year, actually.
But anyway, the key point here is it’s rather than the fragmented cuts of multiple cameras trying to follow the ball, and this is actually more the angle that we expect to show it from. We’ll be watching the ball follow this way, which I think is a pretty aggressive step in looking at baseball coverage or Home Run Derby coverage especially.
Q. Probably would guess, this is the question, but for both Karl and Eduardo, how big of a star has Randy Arozarena become, more from a national perspective, and how and why did that happen, do you think?
KARL RAVECH: I’ll start. To me he is about to become a lot bigger star because I think the stage here with the audience that he is going to get is going to be as large as any he has played in front of, including the postseason, and the postseason is when he became a star.
But his personality is what separates him, and it’s one of the reasons, I think, Mark, I’m as excited about this derby as any derby we’ve done. I think Randy is a headline act in an act that has seven other players in it that all have an appeal to them. I think the Cuban-born players are one aspect of it.
I think Adley Rutschman going back, in a sense, home. Mookie Betts is probably the most underrated superstar of his generation, and he has obviously been recognized for what he does.
But Randy is different. There are certain guys that have that “it” factor. I think it was Cash who said that about him. He is right. There’s something about Randy, when he walks into a room, you recognize there’s somebody who deserves attention.
And you put him on this stage, and boy, I hope he has success early. I really do. I hope that he sees a few balls go over the wall and doesn’t get discouraged because I want to see him finish a round and give it one of these. I really do. I think the country will enjoy that.
So he has become a star through his performance and through his personality, and this is an ideal, ideal individual format for somebody like Randy to shine.
EDUARDO PEREZ: This is the first time we’ll have in a Home Run Derby a player that’s raced a horse before, right?
Look, the personality is there, right? We’ve seen his Randy Land in Tampa. We’ve seen what he means to that community. We’ve seen how he has embraced Mexico. We’ve seen how he embraced the World Baseball Classic in Mexico. We see when he came here to Miami after Arizona and talking to the fans during pitching changes, he is relatable.
I think people love the genuineness that he has, the boots that he wears out on the field. He has embraced it all.
Yeah, he plays in a small market, but he has made it a big one and the big stage, and I think this is the perfect place for him.
Then he is going to go up against Adolis García, who within itself it’s another tight friend of his from the Cardinals organization. But these are two Cubans from two big cities. One is from Havana, and that’s Arozarena; and the other is from Ciego De Avila, and Ciego De Avila is more on the common way side, on the eastern side.
Yes, there is some rivalry here, and it’s going to be fun to watch between those two friends. Randy has stepped up every time. Let’s see how he steps up Monday night.
Q. Just a quick follow-up since you played in Tampa Bay. To have Randy and Yandy Diaz elected as starters, that’s very rare too. What do you attribute that to?
EDUARDO PEREZ: I attribute it to the fans understanding who is good. We look around, and we’ve seen a lot of players that we didn’t expect to get voted in at the beginning of the season. It’s not any more a popularity-type contest with a lot of these guys.
From Randy getting selected, Yandy getting selected, which is a testament in itself to the baseball fans’ understanding of who has been really good in the first half and why Tampa Bay has been great besides their pitching, their offense has had Yandy as a catalyst, and Randy right there with it, right with him in the middle of it.
Q. We all see what the pitch clock has done for baseball games this year, but did you envision the pitch clock would make that big of a difference in the Home Run Derby? I think it started in Cincinnati with the new format.
KARL RAVECH: Look, the clock in baseball has changed everything. The Home Run Derby has become a much better event, and it did happen because of the timed round. There’s no question about it.
If you think about the derby since then, most of them have had these seminal moments. You go back 30 years if you want, and I know you can do that, you go back to Griffey hitting one off the warehouse, that sticks out. ’99 sticks out for the show that Griffey and McGwire put on.
But then you get into Frazier, and you get into Harper, and you get into Aaron Judge. There has definitely been a pace to it which has improved it dramatically. Having been involved with it prior to it and since, I think most of the consumers — and that’s ultimately who we’re most concerned with — enjoy the idea that there is an artificial means by which this thing is going to have to end.
And you can extend it with homers over 440, but there’s no question that a clock in this sport has changed the sport as radically as any other change that we’ve seen in the history of the game, and certainly for the derby it’s for the better. There’s no question about it.
Q. Eduardo, this one is for you. I’m curious what your thoughts are on Luis Robert Jr.’s explosion this year? He is the No. 1 seed in the Home Run Derby pool. People attribute it mostly to health, but I was wondering if there was more to it than that.
EDUARDO PEREZ: Stay on the field healthy is the number one thing with Luis Robert Jr. Early on they were comparing him to the Cuban Mike Trout, right? The guy plays center field. He is a Gold Glove center fielder. He can run them down. Can he stay on the field healthy?
He has had leg issues in the past. Now he is, he is there. We’re gaining the fruits of it.
I don’t know if it’s because also a lot of the coaching staff is a very Spanish-speaking coaching staff. He feels comfortable there in Chicago doing what he has been doing. But Luis Robert, what I’ve seen from him, is the guy that now understands he can hit the ball to right center field with authority, and he is pulling the breaking pitches, the off-speed pitches.
It was a couple of years ago when they played in Oakland in the postseason. I think it was the Wild Card, and he had a blast out there, and it was a breaking pitch, and it was a deep fly ball. I was like, wow, I can’t wait to see this guy in a Home Run Derby.
In order to see him in a derby, he has to be healthy. He put it all together. In the last couple of weeks, he has been phenomenal because he is not missing the pitch up.
Q. Karl, Phil, Eduardo, thanks for taking the time. My question is, we see the NBA Draft. We see NBA All-Star Saturday Night and how these events are presented and really attract younger consumers through the digital outlets. What is ESPN doing this year, and how can you guys enhance the broadcast to make Major League Baseball — elevate Major League Baseball’s profile with the draft and the Home Run Derby in a similar way?
EDUARDO PEREZ: Well, what I love about the MLB Draft, it’s completely different than the NBA and the NFL because over there it’s based sometimes on need. If there’s a clear-cut No. 1, you’re going to take that clear-cut No. 1.
But with baseball, and you talk to the scouts, and I’ve had a lot of conversations with them on a nightly basis, especially leading up to this, you look for that impact player. You want impact.
That’s what scouts look for, and in this draft and another draft, not necessarily it’s the best player that gets picked first. It’s the one that can impact your organization the longest.
It could be on an economical side of it. It could be also on the talent side of it. That’s why it’s so unpredictable to draft. We might think we might have a player going in the 18th pick, and all of a sudden, Kumar Rocker goes to Texas at 3, whoa, all of a sudden, we’re all shuffling, and the adrenaline kicks in.
The beauty of the game and what teams need and how they evaluate players is not consistent with other teams. We might think and we might have a good guesstimate of who is going where, and we have Kiley McDaniel to help us out immensely when it comes to the high schoolers and the college players, and by having K.P. and Burke at the same time there, it just adds to the knowledge that we can bring all together, and then it’s quarterbacked by the guy that’s going to be speaking after me now.
KARL RAVECH: Yeah, Eduardo gave you a good summary of how the draft night works. I think to your question, the College World Series attracted more people than anything we’ve done. It was stunning.
We know the audience is out there. The fact that the second round is going to be on ESPN+, we recognize that’s how it was consumed. So many viewers, so many of the consumers of the College World Series through the course of each round did it through a digital operation. They did it through ESPN+. They did not necessarily all come to linear, and then you get to the College World Series in Omaha, and they’re there. You had 3.5 million people watching that thing.
So we know they’re out there. I think the growth of college baseball is certainly going to contribute to the appeal of that group you’re talking about. I think ESPN+ is another way that you tap into that.
Certainly ESPN.com. We’re talking about the draft and the derby in the same conversation. If Phil thinks back to 1993, 30 years ago, and you look at the coverage globally, let alone domestically, of the Home Run Derby, it’s unbelievable how many outlets cover the Home Run Derby before it starts. All these previews.
The same with the College World Series. The same now with the draft. The other part of it, I think what appeals to — what will appeal to more people, not necessarily younger people, but more people is the NBA and the NFL, those guys went from draft to field very quickly.
Major League Baseball was a little bit slower in that. Now the bonuses are so big that the same guy you saw on the field in Omaha could easily be on the field in September. There’s no question that if Paul Skenes is on a team that’s trying to compete, he is on the field the same way Brandon Finnegan was.
I’m not sure we need to manufacture a whole bunch of different ways to appeal to the Derek Futtermans of the world and others; but I think, organically, because of the popularity of the World Series and ESPN+, it is going to happen. I’m sure Phil could add.
But I do think the popularity of the college game is sort of like a knock on your head like, hey, we’re here. We ain’t going anywhere, and we are watching.
PHIL ORLINS: To go from a scenario where just two weeks ago we had unprecedented audiences watching College World Series and then potentially have possibly the top three picks in the draft have played in that three-game College World Series championship is pretty special in its own right, obviously. I don’t need to reference the amount of awareness and publicity the NBA gets out of guys playing in France and things of that nature.
But for us to have 3 million viewers watching Florida play LSU and see Langford, Skenes, and Crews all playing is pretty special.
I think the other piece of it is MLB working to provide a framework for it that gives it a sense of stature and a sense of being a meaningful special event, and I think simply building it into the All-Star experience is the goal there, holding at the football field, Lumen Field, and just giving it that kind of look and feel that makes it feel — again, nobody is going to claim it takes over a city like the NFL Draft does or something of that nature, but being part of a Home Run Derby and All-Star game, it does give it some pop, for sure.
Q. Phil, I guess my question is for you, and it’s somewhat similar about the derby especially as a TV product. I think we’ve seen the Pro Bowl is changing how they’re trying to attract fans and there’s been a lot of talk about rejuvenating the dunk contest, and I think the derby has done the best out of all of those of maintaining and closing the gap to the All-Star game in terms of viewers. I’m curious for you what makes it such a successful TV product, and I’m curious how you think about leveraging social media and social media interest and getting those people to tune in rather than following along through clips or alerts or highlights?
PHIL ORLINS: I think the main thing I would say on this is we are unbelievably fortunate and blessed to have an event — an exhibition event, so to speak, that almost is not an exhibition and is a real competitive event. Not to mention the fact there’s obviously prize money involved now, and all of that. But even before there was prize money involved, there was pride on the line, and people from a competitive standpoint believed in the event and wanted to win and put on a show.
My biggest reaction, and I feel sometimes I have to caution myself against this because I don’t want to be the guy that says no to stuff, but anytime somebody comes with a suggestion to, let’s call it, gimmick it up or whatever, I am extremely hesitant because the foundation of this event is that people compete to win.
Now, we did need the pace improvement, and when Tony Petitti from MLB called us six weeks before that event in Cincinnati, I thought it was the right time and the right place to make that kind of change, and we enthusiastically participated and endorsed that.
But the sheer fact that the competitors themselves — I mean, I think Karl and Eduardo would say the same thing. Like the energy that Pete Alonso brings to this event to win it is the biggest, best thing in many ways we can ever have.
I’ll tell you what, too, I go to a lot of baseball All-Stars, things of that nature, you have to look hard sometimes to find an empty seat in the house when this thing is over after two and a half hours, so people are pretty darn enraptured and staying with it.
We have a social team, to answer your latter question. We have a social team that work in parallel to us. I don’t manage that directly. We’ll have two people on the field that are posting clips from the derby to all our ESPN outlets, which have massive following, thankfully: our ESPN Instagram page, Twitter page, and our MLB At Bat TikTok page, simultaneously to the event taking place. That’s where we go with that. Thanks.
KARL RAVECH: I’ll add to that. I do think in a lot of ways when we grew up, the heavyweight champion of the world was recognized nearly as universally as any other athlete. If you go way, way back to when Babe Ruth was playing, there is something about a home run and a home run champion that resonates with people.
It resonates not only with the people in the stands and watching, but it resonates with their fellow competitors. I know you have all seen when you watch the other players who are sitting on the first and third base side get into this in such a way, you realize that what we’re witnessing is something unique.
Having watched many of these things back over the last couple of weeks, I find myself sometimes not recognizing how amazing it is what’s happening right in front of you. When Vladimir Guerrero gets on a roll, when Pete Alonso gets on a roll, sometimes we’re so close to it you can’t appreciate it. But when I watch it back, I’m like, oh, my God, do you realize what is going on here?
Sometimes you just want to watch along with the people at home because it is such a unique skill set to not only hit a ball that far, but to do it that often, that repetition under the spotlight and no cage around you and all these people watching and the pressure, it is an incredible athletic achievement sometimes I think we take for granted.
And it goes back to the Babe Ruth days and everyone’s infatuation with home runs and heavyweight champions. And a lot of times it is the biggest, strongest guy that wins this thing, and I think that’s a major appeal to the people that watch this.
Q. My question is for Karl and Eduardo. In recent years, the past five years, the physical characteristics of the baseball has been a story each year, from trying to make it to curb home runs to pitchers having the ball slip out of their hands, complaining. Have you guys heard anything specific to this year from players around the league about the baseball, or has that kind of seemingly died down this year, the trouble around the actual baseball itself?
KARL RAVECH: Well, I can answer that. Clearly there are still issues with the baseball and pitchers and using sticky substances. We’ve seen suspensions, et cetera.
I would say that on a weekly basis when we talk with managers for every Sunday Night game, many of them have often said, you know, why can’t we have a more consistent baseball?
I know Major League Baseball is doing their due diligence on trying to figure out what is the best baseball, and can you go to Korea, you can go to Japan, you can stay right here domestically and try to get one that allows for it to be sticky enough that the pitcher can execute his pitches, but not too sticky so that the strikeout rates, which are already egregiously high, get even higher.
It’s a balancing act, and there will be pitchers that want to have it stickier, and there will be pitchers and organizations that will try to push the envelope as far as they can because of the ball. But it’s quite clear that there is still concern and an issue, and it’s not something that we can sit there and say, check that box, we all get it now, it works beautifully.
So I think the answer to your question is it’s a work in progress, and I don’t imagine that there’s a whole bunch of people who figure, yep, we got it.
EDUARDO PEREZ: I’m in those same meetings with Karl, so I would repeat the same exact thing that Karl just said. So it’s a work in progress.
Q. It’s been a couple of years since the draft moved to All-Star week from earlier in the year in June. I just wondered if you had noticed any impacts about that move and whether or not it’s been a good thing overall compared to the earlier start time?
EDUARDO PEREZ: I love it. I think the players have also embraced it. On the collegiate side, for example, there’s not a distraction during the College World Series, during the Super Regionals of the draft that’s going on as they are playing.
They have time to set up. It’s good to have some of the players there, just like the NFL does and NBA, and to be able to interview them. We’ll be able to do that as well this year. I think [Xavier Scruggs] will be in charge of that.
Moving it to this time and the adjustment that Major League Baseball has done as soon as the players sign to be able to start their second half of the season, also for development standpoint and for just keeping the body rested, I think it’s the best thing instead of having it continuous going from a collegiate season or a high school season for that matter.
But this prepares the organizations a little bit better to be able to look, study, and having all the organizations at one place at one time, I think plays to the strength of why this draft will continue to keep growing and growing.
KARL RAVECH: Yeah, and I would say this, Joe. In a lot of ways, Phil alluded to it, it legitimatizes the draft. The idea that it is surrounded by the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby and your draft, I mean, this is baseball’s week.
Part of what makes the Home Run Derby so special is there’s nothing going on. This is its night, and the draft has its own night on Sunday. There’s no Major League games. There’s no Sunday Night Baseball. It’s the draft.
You know, we talk about all these rule changes. This is a young — this is more of a young man’s game than it’s ever been. This is now about athleticism. It’s about your ability to play up the middle and make the plays that went in a shift you didn’t have to make. It’s about base-stealing. It’s why a guy like Enrique Bradfield is a little more probably highly sought after than he maybe would have been, Dylan Crews and his ability to play center field.
It legitimatizes the whole thing. It’s not lost in a super regional where a kid all of a sudden finds out he is getting drafted when he is warming up in a bullpen and that kind of thing. It makes it what it should be.
Because the sport is growing and going in the right direction, it makes sense to make sure the spotlight is on the next generation as brightly as you can have it, and having that draft associated with the derby and the game make great sense. It was a very smart move.
Q. Two for Phil here. First one, Phil. In years past you always had to go through the slow pace of baseball and then have to catch up to the fast nature of the Home Run Derby. Has the pitch clock this year helped because you’ve gotten used to that rhythm? Is that something that’s been kind of a godsend for you?
PHIL ORLINS: I don’t think anything will get us used to the Home Run Derby rhythm. I need shock therapy to get ready for the Home Run Derby rhythm.
Q. Then, secondly, since ESPN has taken a bigger role in the draft this year, does that mean new technology or kind of the — what’s the infrastructure for you guys over at Lumen Field?
PHIL ORLINS: I mean, look, it’s a great place for us to have it. We’re working on drone flight paths. Everything is on the field at the football stadium, so we have a lot of room to fly around it.
We have a shared relationship with MLB utilizing some pretty progressive stuff with Zoom. Obviously, MLB has got the Zoom relationship which you probably can see from replay review, for accessing all the players who are at home and the war room cameras and all that kind of stuff.
But I think it’s about enhancing the overall experience and the access we need to have. I don’t think it’s not — we’re not breaking any new virtual 3-D animations on the draft walk-ups or anything of that nature.
A little more standard. It’s a little less progressive than the ESPN2 Home Run Derby coverage.
KARL RAVECH: I would say this, the Home Run Derby is as difficult an event that I call because of the speed of it. The concept of you can’t throw a pitch until the prior one lands is not necessarily obeyed all the time.
It just makes it hard. There are, more often than not, more than one baseball in the air. It may be very close to a seat when the next one goes off. But I don’t know what the hell it’s like to be an air traffic controller, but it feels like that. We have one coming in over here on runway seven and one departing on runway four. There is a unique challenge to doing the Home Run Derby. There’s no doubt about it.
I’ll be honest, you’re sitting in there, and there’s the in-stadium announcer, there’s the fans, there’s sort of a score bug here with the number, there’s another one up there that sometimes isn’t caught up to what we have, and it’s a unique challenge. That’s for sure.
It’s a lot of fun. I don’t know if you at home can sit there and say I think he had 36, and they have 35 or they have 37. There’s a challenge in it, there’s no doubt about it. It’s enjoyable, but there’s a challenge.
Q. Basically what’s it been like working with Phil, and I guess going off what Karl just said, Eduardo?
EDUARDO PEREZ: Just adding to that as well, we’re on the field, so we’re looking at all those bugs, but we also have the players’ reaction right next to us. So we sometimes — at least I can speak for myself on this one. I become a fan just like the players do, and you forget that you are actually trying to break down a swing because you’re in awe of what they do.
That’s why I’m not in awe of what they do, I’m in awe that Karl can do, what he does as a flight controller. It’s the first time he has ever explained it like that. First time I heard it. That makes a lot of sense.
But it’s the new technology that comes in every year, year after year. It’s not only at the Home Run Derby. It’s during the regular season as well.
Phil continues to push the envelope when it comes to that, and I love that because I think it makes everything exciting for us, and it makes everything exciting for the fans itself and to be able to do something.
I remember a couple of years ago we were trying to brainstorm how can we get force plates on and see who has the strongest foundation on a swing? You’re always trying to push something to the limit, and Phil has always been open to that.
KARL RAVECH: I don’t know if you asked that question, what it’s like to work with Phil, but he brought up the Home Run Derby in Baltimore in ’93. Phil and I have sort of been working together since the late ’80s because we both went to Ithaca College at the same time, and I tell this story about Phil and how kind of a different breed he is.
I mean, we would go to a class on a Tuesday morning, and you would discover that Phil was driving through the hills of Pennsylvania at 4 a.m. because he was the sound guy on Monday Night Football. And you would be like, who the hell would do that? Why are you going to do all those things?
Phil got the technology bug probably way before that, but I know this: We will never be sort of second when it comes to somebody thinking outside the box or ways to improve something technically than we are with Phil. Phil does a great job of relating to a machine and equipment, probably better than he does humans. So he is in the right wheelhouse. He is great at that.
Q. This is for Eduardo and Karl. Over the years what has been some of your favorite Home Run Derby performances?
EDUARDO PEREZ: Wow. Yeah, I think the first time this was introduced when it comes to the timer in Cincinnati. For me it was a game changer. I didn’t work that one, the Home Run Derby, but I was there for it. I was, like, okay, there’s something to this now.
Another one was Hamilton, who did not win it at Yankee Stadium, and he put on a show. You know, those two stand out in a major way. But being there and calling these, year after year, for the last couple of years, that’s been the top for me as a personal moment because you are there and you can see the strength, the power.
I remember one of them I was actually with the mic, and I would go and run and interview some of the players. And it was in San Diego, and I was sitting on a bucket, and I felt bad for the bucket. I didn’t realize that someone took a picture of me sitting on the bucket, and the bucket was about to collapse. I don’t blame it.
But it was watching Giancarlo Stanton hit those home runs in San Diego, seeing how far those went. I called one in Spanish with Ernesto Jerez in Miami as well.
Each one stands alone, but it’s every time you go out there, you’re going to see something you have never seen before, and I have a feeling it’s going to happen again next Monday.
KARL RAVECH: Yeah, I would say that Harper and his dad was probably the one that resonated with me. I mean, there was a feeling toward the end, like, this ain’t going to happen. The dad isn’t throwing strikes. He is getting frustrated. Then, all of a sudden, he was able to pull it off.
I think that was one of the great comebacks. It was a really neat story.
Again, to Phil’s point, this is not an exhibition. You look at all these competitors, and you get into the final round. This is no longer a show. I want to win this thing really, really badly. And if you look at the expressions on all the winners, when it ends, whether it’s a bat flip, Soto last year, it’s Harper hugging his dad, all the father-son things stand out, but I think the Harper one was right there with Frazier’s because it was a great comeback.
I think anytime Alonso wins there’s an energy to it. I didn’t actually think last year’s finish was that great even though Soto kind of went down to a knee. I think Harper is the one that sticks with me as the most exciting and memorable one.
Q. Super quick follow-up. Who is the most underrated participant in this year’s Home Run Derby?
KARL RAVECH: Well, I mean, underrated means that — how do you define underrated? Like they don’t have a chance and they’re going to surprise everybody, or…
Q. Yeah, they’re going to surprise everybody.
KARL RAVECH: Yeah, I don’t think the world knows Adolis García very well, and I think given how strong he is, I mean, he is absolutely a fire hydrant. The event, the time requirements are not going to wear him down.
I think we heard last night on our Home Run Derby Special, a lot of folks think Mookie Betts might get worn down by this whole thing. He would be the guy that I think has a chance to do this as somebody who may not be yet known on the national stage because he hits it every which way.
Hopefully he won’t try to pull the ball. He is strong enough to hit it out of any part of that ballpark, so I think García would be that guy.
EDUARDO PEREZ: Yeah, and with me, you know what I think is really interesting is that Betts is actually a 3 seed, and he is going against Vladdy, a 6th seed. He hits the ball harder than anybody else at 109. That was Sarah Langs yesterday that came up with that one. Every home run, you add it up average-wise, it’s 109 miles per hour off the bat.
But the distance is going to matter in a major way. This is where the No. 1 seed, where a lot of people out of Chicago just don’t know a lot about Luis Robert Jr. We haven’t seen him in postseason and national stage. We’re about to find out if Luis Robert Jr. can become a household name.
KARL RAVECH: Brayan Bello, that’s all you have to remember. Brayan Bello.
Q. This question goes out for Eduardo. With players like Trout, Kershaw, and Judge being out of this year’s All-Star lineup, do you feel as though viewership might be affected with novice baseball goers?
EDUARDO PEREZ: With the novice baseball goers? No, I think the novice baseball fan, they’ll still watch.
This is still a show, and it’s a weekend show. From the Futures Game when they moved it to Saturday, this has become — even the high school game on Friday — this has become a weekend of how to be able to celebrate baseball. Not only just with that All-Star game.
What Major League Baseball, ESPN altogether have been able to do is promote this event really well. Now, those players won’t be active. That doesn’t mean they won’t be there. A lot of them are still there. They still go because they understand how important it is, and they don’t know if it’s going to be their last or not, and they cherish every one of those moments.
But them not being there I don’t think is going to affect. Maybe in New York when it comes to Judge because he is not there; but you look at everywhere else, they’re still going to celebrate it.
Karl, where was it — in Colorado where Perez was hitting his home run, Salvy was hitting his home runs, and we were interviewing Pete, and the entire city of Kansas City was up in arms because we were interviewing someone while their player was hitting the home runs.
So I think the cities themselves will follow their players and celebrate their accomplishments.
Q. Also, I have one quick question. Why is it important for the culture of the Home Run Derby to continue to thrive in Major League Baseball?
KARL RAVECH: I think home runs, this is the “Chicks dig the long ball” thing that the Braves made famous, but this is Babe Ruth. This goes — the home run, again, is sort of the “heavyweight champion of the world” concept.
So I think the home run is the most celebrated. Look, it’s a hell of a lot more celebrated than any strikeout. I think the home run is the most celebrated aspect of baseball, and the idea that you have a derby where you bring these giant guys onto a field and you see them hit a ball over the wall and then occasionally there’s a guy Randy Arozarena’s size or Mookie Betts’ size. There’s an underdog component to it all.
Back to the question you asked Eduardo, last year the viewership was massive, and Ohtani went out early. It’s a great litmus test for the Ohtani factor. We know about the Tiger Woods factor in golf, and obviously the Tour has been able to move away from Tiger Woods because he is not playing.
Ohtani is a needle-mover, and he is not obviously doing the Home Run Derby, but the numbers were massive last year, and he bowed out real early. So it’s not as if the audience grew because Ohtani stayed in the competition.
I think it is a uniquely situated, stand-alone event that when you have this particular number of ingredients from the markets we have, you have Chicago, you know, you have Los Angeles, you have Texas, you have very big market players involved with this and the personalities. That it’s going to do really well regardless of Mike Trout or Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani not participating in it.
Matt Olson didn’t have a very good Home Run Derby the year he did it, and he is second on the Major Leagues right now, or if not, leading the Major League in homers.
There are different permits I think that make the event work, and I love the field of eight that’s in the 2023 derby. Love it.