The Rundown: Bryant and Rizzo Ousted Early in Derby, Champ Pederson and Albert Pujols Provide Touching Highlight, Anthem Singer Crushes It

There’s not a whole lot of Cubs news flying around at this point, and I’m reasonably sure you don’t want me to do a rundown of the trade rumors that are starting to buzz like so many mosquitoes in the swamps created by all this summer rain (hint: Castro for anyone with a pulse seems popular).

As you might be aware, both Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo participated in last night’s Home Run Derby, though both had somewhat disappointing first-round exits. I was more surprised by Rizzo, who really seemed to be jumpy on the unfamiliar stage, jumping out and pulling a lot of pitches foul.

But I enjoyed MLB’s new format on the whole, particularly the mano a mano brackets that were responsible for a great deal of drama throughout the event. It also made for some really great moments, like watching Mike Bryant get the chance to pitch to his son. My son knows the surefire way to get me up and out of the house is to ask me to throw him BP, so stuff like this really gets me.

Apparently though, Kris’s dad has been taking cues from the NL pitchers who have been pitching around his son all year. But as great as that little family moment was, it was only the start.

The Champ is here

Joc Pederson, the Dodgers’ striking (in more ways than one) rookie outfielder put on quite a show with his lightning-quick bat on Monday, but it was his older brother who stole the show. Champ Pederson, who has Down syndrome, was down on the field cheering on his brother, who was facing off against Champ’s former favorite player, Albert Pujols.

After falling to his crosstown counterpart, Pujols gave Joc a warm embrace while Champ looked on. Not content to be a mere spectator though, the elder Pederson jumped up into the big Angel’s arms for a bear hug and a little trash talk.

If you saw the moment and thought there was some backstory to it, you were right. As Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown wrote back before the season began, these two had met before.

So it was something of a surprise that night when Pujols worked his way through the crowd, found the Pedersons – father Stu, mother Shelly, Joc and Champ – and introduced himself. Champ was beside himself.

“You’re my favorite player,” he said, well within earshot of Joc.

“Champ,” Shelly said, “your brother…”

“Nope,” Champ said. “Albert Pujols.”

He asked for a jersey.

Pujols laughed.

“They’re pretty special kids,” he said.

The Pedersons knew The Pujols Foundation, knew the work it did for people – children in particular – with Down syndrome and other disabilities. Champ did too. From that, they figured Pujols must be a good man. Champ is a pretty good judge of these things.

“Champ’s been wanting to meet him for a long time,” Joc said.

Funny when your eyes are open, your heart too, what comes of it. Three days later, the Dodgers hosted the Angels at Camelback Ranch. Pujols was at first base. Pederson subbed into the game as a pinch-runner at first.

“I have Champ’s jersey,” Pujols told him. “I’ll be sure it gets to you.”

It was in a box, on the bus, before the Angels left for Tempe.

“I was kind of shocked,” Joc said. “A lot of people say stuff and don’t follow through.”

I know there’s no love lost by Cubs fans when it comes to the former Cardinal, but when you read stuff like this, it makes you put things in a very different perspective. On a different note, I love that the Pedersons named their sons Champ and Joc; do you think they’ve ever met the Baileys and hung out with Champ and Boss?

Starting if off right

When Marlana VanHoose was born with Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and an unformed optic nerve that left her blind, doctors gave her less than a year to live. She beat those predictions, but at the age of two, Marlana was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy. As you can see from the video below, she continues to defy the odds.

Wow. Despite what it means, it’s very easy to become desensitized to a song as ubiquitous as the National Anthem. That was not the case last night though, as this young girl stood behind home plate and belted it out with more more power than any of the sluggers to follow her could muster.

My wife, who couldn’t have cared less about the Derby and was sitting in the other room and binge-watching Army Wives on Netflix, hurried into the living room after hearing a few bars and was transfixed. What a way to kick off the evening.

I must admit that my interest waned a little as the night wore on, particularly after Rizzo and Bryant and the fantastic new gear they were rocking exited early. But I did continue to watch to the end, as I really did enjoy the way this Derby was set up. I didn’t care much for the camera angles and such, but the faster pace mitigated the Bermanization of the broadcast, which was nice.

We were, however, treated to Aaron Bleeping Boone talking about Johnny Bench holding lots of balls in his hands, so that was fun.

Even though he’s a Red, it was pretty cool to see and hear the electricity in the ballpark as Todd Frazier took the title. In doing so, he became the first player to win the Derby in his home park since Ryne Sandberg in 1990.

The only suggestions I’d make for future events would be to pull in some guys who might not be All-Stars. Like Craig Hodges participating in the 3pt contest or something, you could really generate buzz for some different players who might not otherwise have the kind of juice last night’s participants boast.

Or perhaps they could bring in some minor-league sluggers. I’d have paid good money to see guys like Joey Gallo and Kyle Schwarber go up against seasoned vets in a longball contest. And can imagine how fun it would be to see Javier Baez out there whaling away at BP fastballs? Be still my heart.


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