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July 10, 2007

 

Bonds creates the biggest splash

home run derby

AP Photo/Eric Risberg
Toronto Blue Jays’ Alex Rios hits in the second round during the All-Star Home Run Baseball Derby in San Francisc Monday.  Rios had 17 home runs at the end of the second round and advanced to the finals.

By RONALD BLUM
AP Baseball Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Bonds made the biggest splash, and he didn’t even hit in the Home Run Derby.
The Angels’ Vladimir Guerrero beat Toronto’s Alex Rios 3-2 in Monday night’s derby final and hit the longest drive, a 503-foot shot in front of the oversized baseball glove behind the left-field seats.
Bonds decided not to take part, disappointing fans in the ballpark and ratings-hungry baseball executives. He’s done it six times before and didn’t want to exert himself at age 42.
“I love Barry,” the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez said. “I wish he was there because I’m watching it and I want to see great players hit. It would have been awesome to watch him hit some into McCovey Cove.”
None of the eight batters in the Home Run Derby managed a true “splash hit” over the right-field fence and into the waterfront park’s iconic McCovey Cove. Dozens of eager fans wearing wetsuits and carrying nets amid the flotilla of kayaks and rafts ended up scrambling for just a handful of foul balls and ricochets during nearly six hours of batting practice and derby slugging.
In the semifinal round, Guerrero, Rios, St. Louis’ Albert Pujols and Colorado’s Matt Holliday sent balls into every other corner of a park that’s usually a nightmare for any hitter not named Bonds.
Guerrero, who managed just two homers in his only previous derby appearance back in 2000, also produced the contest’s most fearsome shot: a 503-footer to left that fell just short of the oversized baseball mitt looming over the outfield bleachers — a target that still hasn’t been hit during a game in the park’s 8-year history.
Minnesota’s Justin Morneau, Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder, Detroit’s Magglio Ordonez and Howard were eliminated in the first round.
Bonds stood near the third-base dugout and watched, talking with A-Rod. Baseball’s prodigy and pariah, Bonds will be batting second for the National League in Tuesday’s All-Star game rather than his customary cleanup spot.
“I’m hitting fourth?” Ken Griffey Jr. said incredulously. “Just tell him to get the guys over for me.”
Loved and loathed, admired and assailed, Bonds was the center of attention as baseball’s midsummer celebration returned to San Francisco for the first time in 23 years.
For once Bonds could bask in the sunlight that filled the Giants’ ballpark by the bay and the attention of adoring hometown fans, the dual burden of steroid suspicions and his chase for Hank Aaron’s home-run record lifted for a few days.
“My thing is that I feel disappointed in some of those fans that were influenced by a third-party judgment and have not given me that opportunity just to know me,” he said. “People in San Francisco know me.”
In a silver vest and fashionable tie, Bonds sat behind a corner table in the grand ballroom of the Westin St. Francis hotel by Union Square, surrounded by media a dozen deep as he spoke for an hour before the Home Run Derby. At the other end of the ornate room, Griffey craned his neck around Dodgers reliever Takashi Saito to get a look.
Later at the ballpark, fans cheered and chanted “Barry! Barry!” as he hit mostly liners and grounders during batting practice. He did send a few drives out toward the right- and center-field seats. He hit seven homers in all, and fans in kayaks and rafts awaited his single splash shot, one diving into the chilly water to fish out a ball.
Bonds hasn’t started a regular-season game in the No. 2 hole since June 6, 1987, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, although he batted second in the 1993 All-Star game at Baltimore. Players speculated he was pushed up that high in order to get him extra at-bats.
David Wright of the Mets, hitting fifth in the NL order, wanted to savor the moment.
“It’s going to be a great story to tell my kids, my grandchildren that I got a chance to not only suit up with Barry but provide some protection for Ken Griffey Jr., as well,” he said. “It’s just an incredible honor. It’s something I’ll always remember.”
The streets of San Francisco were filled with baseball fans who crowded the cable cars that climbed Nob and Russian Hills and found their way down to Fisherman’s Wharf and its indelible view of the rust-colored Golden Gate Bridge. The morning fog burned off and AT&T sparkled, its flags flapping in the breeze.
When the All-Stars last came to San Francisco, the Giants played south of downtown in Candlestick Park, known for its chill and stiff wind. There were 21 strikeouts in the 1984 game, highlighted by Gary Carter’s home run off Dave Stieb in a 3-1 NL win. The game took just 2 hours, 29 minutes — so fast that it still was daylight when the postgame fireworks went off.
Then there was the 1961 affair at Candlestick, when Stu Miller was blown off the mound for a balk.
The new ballpark, originally known at Pacific Bell Park and then SBC Park, was built partly from the Silicon Valley wealth created in the dot-com boom. It’s south of Market Street and protected somewhat from the wind, but players say it can be treacherous.
“The wind just blows,” said St. Louis slugger Pujols. “It’s probably the toughest park in the National League for a right-handed hitter.”
Oakland’s Dan Haren (10-3) and San Diego’s Jake Peavy (9-3) were picked as the starting pitchers. The American League carried a nine-game winning streak in All-Star games played to a decision, with 2002’s notorious 7-7, 11-inning tie at Milwaukee in the middle.
Homefield advantage for the World Series is at stake for the fifth consecutive season. A-Rod joked that he used to be back home by the time the final out was made and now he sticks around for the late innings.
By then, Bonds will have received several standing ovations. Among the stars, he’s revered, not reviled.
“Just ask the guys in this room or the NL room and you’ll find a lot of fans of Barry Bonds,” Boston’s Josh Beckett said, “because we know what he’s done and how hard it is to do it.”

 

 

 

Former Dragon Dougher tossing blanks

After leading SUNY Cortland to the NCAA Division III World Series and earning All-America status, Jimmy Dougher has continued his success after being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays.
The just turned 22-year-old out of Liverpool has pitched 12 scoreless innings for the Blue Jays squad in the Gulf Coast League in Florida. Drafted in the 24th round by the Blue Jays in June, Dougher has allowed just six hits in three appearances, striking out 11 batters and issuing a lone walk in the rookie league.
The first team All-American and SUNY Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year was 8-2 with a 0.63 earned run average this season for the Red Dragons. That earned run average was the best nationally in Division III.
The 6-foot-7 right-hander pitched three scoreless innings of relief in his professional debut in Florida. Since then he has made two starts for the squad, which is 9-9 in the Gulf Coast North Division.
He allowed one hit and struck out four batters in his first start, and then picked up his first professional victory with five-scoreless innings in his second start. He allowed just two his and struck out five in that victory.
Dougher has dominated right-handed hitters, who are batting just .107 with three hits so far. He has also been toughest with people on base, having allowed just one hit with an opponent aboard.
Continued success could mean Dougher could be promoted to the Class A team in Auburn, which plays in the New York-Penn League.
He would become the second Red Dragon in the New York-Penn League, as Will Groff is a second baseman with the Batavia Muckdogs. Groff has appeared in seven games this summer, going 1-for-7 with a double and a stolen base.
Cortland graduate Andrew Mead, out of Baldwinsville, is spending his summer as an outfielder for the Great Falls White Sox. The Montana squad plays in the Pioneer League and is currently in first place in their division with a 13-8 record.
The outfielder is hitting .256 with a triple and two doubles for the White Sox.
Two seniors from the Red Dragons are also members of the New York State League of Professional Baseball, which is making its debut this summer in Central New York. Slugging outfielder Dan Maycock is with the Herkimer Trailblazers, while Mike Zgorzelski is on the Rome Coppers pitching staff.
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Blue Jay Tournament
The Toronto Blue Jays will hold their seventh annual 3-game tournaments near Cooperstown for summer teams 13-and-Under, 14-and-Under, 15-and-Under, 16-and-Under and 18-and-Under. Night games and games on Doubleday Field are available.
Trophies and medals are awarded. Call Harvey Sandig at (631) 650-5759 with open dates or e-mail Cooperstown314@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Cortland rolls on one-hitter

BINGHAMTON — Pitcher Justin Burns allowed just one hit and Ryann Hubbard went 4-for-4 and drove in two runs as the Cortland Teeners came up with an 11-1 victory at Chenango Valley on Monday.
The game was halted after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule as Cortland improved to 7-1-1.
Burns pitched perfect ball into the fifth when Chenango Valley’s Matt France led off the inning with clean single up the middle.
While Hubbard was perfect at the plate and scored twice, Brandon Watkins, Garrett Wyatt and Justin Hogan chipped in with two hits apiece as Cortland collected 14 hits.
Cortland is idle until a July 16 visit to Ithaca, the game a 5:30 start.