Home run derby a Blue Jays highlight

For the most part I avoid watching all-star games. They have no meaning in terms of standings, are always populated with players that seem questionable based on current stats, and are played without the emotion that fires good sports entertainment.

So when the baseball all-star game break hit Major League Baseball I was happily tuning it out.

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But Monday evening as I was writing stories out of the regular meeting of Yorkton Council, the better half put the home run derby on the TV. The derby is again not something I gravitate toward. It is an exhibition of power, but with lobbed pitchers, and players I don’t generally follow so it has never really caught my attention.

However, this year Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was involved, and when his turn came up at the derby my typing slowed, and I watched as he hit them out over and over until he established a new record at 29.

From that point I was hooked. Guerrero’s presence and his prowess made this year’s home run derby highly compelling television. As has been pointed out by more than one analyst since, it was both a coming out party for the future Jays star, and while not exactly on the field it will be the highlight of the 2019 season for Toronto fans.

Sticking with baseball, there is an experiment taking place in the Atlantic League right now, one where a player can ‘steal first base.’ Basically the rule being tried allows a runner to try to advance to first base on any ball that gets away from the catcher, no matter the count – similar to the long-existing dropped third strike rule.

So-called purists might hate the idea, but anything that adds a touch of excitement to a game that is increasingly pitching changes and .200 hitters, is a good thing in my book. That said I suspect runners advance far less than might be expected.

What the rule might do is change pitcher’s approaches at times where a ball in the dirt against a speedy batter might not be the best option. That might tilt the table to help the batter, and some more singles would be a good thing.

The Toronto Raptor championship appears to be having the ripple effect many thought could happen. There is apparently a group in TO about to apply for an expansion team in the WNBA. The pro women’s league has been suggesting it needs to solidify its current roster of 12 teams before expansion is on the table, but with the Raptor buzz it might be the ideal time to add the Canadian market. The TO backers have said as early as 2020, but that might be pushing things. However they are already tossing around team names such as Huskies and Towers, so we will see how the bid goes.

Professional women’s sports have always had challenges catching attention; golf and tennis being somewhat outliers to that although they still play for less in terms of prizes than men.

That discrepancy has certainly been brought into focus by the American women’s soccer team that just won the World Cup. They receive far less in funding than the men’s side. On the surface that is ridiculously unfair, but there is a flip side to the situation in that women’s sports don’t usually attract the same fan numbers, or television ratings either.

Finding some reasonable balance is certainly needed although equal pay can probably only be achieved if woman’s sports can grow their fan base significantly.

In my case I am quite satisfied watched the Canadian Wild of Southern Illinois play in National Pro Fat Pitch, and women’s rugby is very good whether it’s 7s or 15s, so women’s sports can be entertaining, although that statement may not extend across all sports, or for all viewers. The task for women’s sports is to gain more eyes watching.

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