- DJ Gallo, ESPN.com
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The Home Run Derby is baseball's premier individual competition. It's also the game's only individual talent competition.
While the NBA and NHL All-Star events feature multiple contests, baseball has just the derby. Maybe it's time for some additional contests that showcase some of baseball's most valuable and cherished skills.
Foul Ball Competition
Home runs are great, but it's much easier to hit them when a pitcher is worn down from having to throw a lot of pitches. In the Foul Ball Competition, contestants try to foul off as many pitches in a row as they can, driving up the pitcher's pitch count. And as exciting as watching MLB players hit foul balls can be, sometimes the most exciting action in the Foul Ball Competition is in the stands as fans brawl for the balls rocketing into their section!
Opposite Field Challenge
Featuring the same contestants as the Home Run Derby, but now they're facing an infield shift! Hitting a home run is worth five points, while slapping a single down the line away from the shift is worth one. Doing the latter is ultimately more valuable, though, because it earns the eternal respect of old-time baseball analysts.
While chicks may dig the long ball, baseball purists dig the short ball. Here baseball's premier bunters showcase their skills under the bright lights of prime time, dropping dribbler after dribbler inside the chalk. There is no player declared the winner of the Bunt Derby. Because the winner is fundamentals.
Pitching Inside Battle
Why should pitchers be left out of the All-Star competition festivities? This event would feature hurlers who are tough enough to practice the art of throwing inside. At the plate would be a batter recently busted for PEDs. Do the contestants have the guts to brush back someone who could be prone to a violent roid-fueled outburst? Tune in to find out!
Pitcher Home Run Derby
Because the regular Home Run Derby is often lacking in laughs, now we get to see the All-Star pitchers swing for the fences. Or at least the outfield grass.
Veteran Locker Room Presence and Leader Competition
This competition would be part of the regular Home Run Derby. After a slugger completes his first round, he then spends time with his regular team's appointed veteran locker room presence -- a player in his 30s, hitting below .250 -- until the second round begins. If the home run total goes up in the second round, that improvement is attributed to inspiration and intangibles provided by the veteran locker room presence. A trophy would be awarded for this competition, but the winner would inevitably turn it down because he values only team goals, not individual accomplishments.
4dJim Caple, ESPN Senior Writer