07/13/2004 11:38 AM ET
Tejada lights up an All-Star show
There is nothing more exciting than a Home Run Derby.
By Michael McHugh / Special to MLB.com
The best power hitters in baseball came to Minute Maid Park on Monday, competing for the title of Home Run King.
Who would it be?
I was sure going to hang around to find out for myself.
The media were allowed on the field an hour before the game to interview players and take pictures. I did both. I got to talk to players like Mike Lowell of the Florida Marlins, Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees, Pudge Rodriguez of the Detroit Tigers, and Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants. Maybe in future columns I can share these interviews with you, but for tonight, I am reporting about the Home Run Derby.
I did have a chance to ask Hank Blalock how he thought he might do. He said that he hoped to win, but just participating was an honor.
The field was so crowded with media, it was hard to move. But there were big names everywhere you looked. Randy Johnson walked right by me. I really wanted to interview him, but didn't get the chance. Alex Rodriguez walked by and said hello to me.
Roger Clemens was also there. As he was leaving the field, fans chanted, "Roger! Roger!" He waved to the crowd before heading into the dugout.
Before the contest, singer Clay Walker entertained the crowd. It was loud and electric.
Participants in the Derby were Bonds, Blalock, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, David Ortiz, Jim Thome, Lance Berkman and Miguel Tejada. Jason Giambi and Ken Griffey Jr. were replaced at the last minute due to injury.
The rules are pretty simple. Each player gets 10 outs per at-bat to hit as many home runs as possible (every swing that doesn't result in a home run is an out). After everybody takes their turn, the four players with most homers move on to the second round.
The two top hitters of that round move on to the finals, where they battle it out for the Home Run Derby crown.
The crowd of 41,754 cheered loudly as the participants were announced. The 500 Home Run Club hitters were there as well, and when Mark McGwire walked on field, the crowd went crazy. The loudest cheers of all were for Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.
Former President Bush also made an appearance tonight. Everywhere you looked, you saw cameras flashing away.
Whack! Crack! Slam! Balls were everywhere in the ballpark.
After the first round, the top four players were Palmeiro, Bonds, Berkman and Tejada. Tejada broke a round record with 15 homers! It was unbelievable.
Tejada went on to beat Berkman in the championship round to win the 2004 title and a really cool trophy.
After the Derby was over, I asked Tejada what it was like to win the Home Run Derby. He said, "Well, when I won, my heart went down, and I said to myself, 'Oh my gosh, I won the Home Run Derby.' "
"I usually watch it from my house, and to win, it is unbelievable. It's something that I will never forget."
I won't either.
Michael McHugh is a student at Friendswood (Texas) Junior High and is a special contributor to MLB.com. He will provide special coverage of the 2004 All-Star Game in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.