Tejada breaks HR record

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 29, 2004

It’s another year of Major League Baseball and yet another record has been broken.

Although this record doesn’t dethrone a major leaguer for a record set throughout an entire season, it does give the slugger a little bit to brag about.

Miguel Tejada proved that not only power hitters such as Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa can win the annual All-Star Game homerun derby, but that a lanky shortstop can as well.

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Tejada claimed the Century 21 All-Star Home Run Derby title Monday night after putting on a hitting clinic before a capacity crowd at Houston’s Tropicana Field.

The Baltimore Orioles infielder had to feel overwhelmed or a bit in awe to be on the same playing field as some of baseball’s greatest homerun hitters. It had to be even more nerve racking to have greats like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Reggie Jackson on hand to witness the contest.

Tejada followed up hometown Lance Berkman’s 10-homerun performance in the second round, which included five homers that sailed out of the stadium, with a record 15 long balls. His longest shot topped out at 497 feet and several were sent over the 58-foot wall behind the left field seats.

Tejada went on to defeat Berkman 5-4 in the final with five of his 10 outs to spare.

The homerun derby is one of the much-awaited events of All-Star week and I would have to say this was the best one in years. Every player put forth great efforts and the title could have gone to anyone of the eight competitors.

The irony of the event is that both Berkman and Tejada are right-handed batters that replaced left-handers. Tejada took over for New York first baseman Jason Giambi, who is recovering from a parasite that weakened him much of June. Berkman, who is a switch-hitter, got the call up when Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. hurt his hamstring last weekend.

The success Tejada and Berkman found in the homerun derby proves that not everyone worthy of playing in the All-Star Game is chosen to do so. Although I agree with the selecting of the All-Stars, I believe there needs to be a few things reviewed.

The All-Stars are voted on by the fans through an online ballot. For months, fans log on and vote for their favorite players at each position, in each league. The players with the most votes play.

The American and National league coaches also have the opportunity to choose a few players they deem worthy of playing in the annual game, but that’s it.

I understand that this method helps ticket sales and, of course, television ratings, but is it the best way?

I know most fans root for the top players in baseball, but I’m also certain there are fans that root for the players that they believe are just good examples. Players that represent themselves well and inspire them.

With that in mind, I believe the All-Star Selection Committee should consider adding two spots on each league’s ballot for the average player. The player that’s not necessarily heating it up on the diamond or seeing much action, but one that comes through in the clutch.

The additions could be for two pinch hitters. They have spots on the rosters for relief pitchers.

I know my opinion doesn’t count, but I feel more players should be represented. There are several out there that deserve a chance to be a part of the All-Star festivities.

Tejada and Berkman proved that true Monday night.

Adam Prestridge is sports editor of The Greenville Advocate. He can be reached at 382-3111, ext. 122 or by e-mail: adam.prestridge@greenvilleadvocate.com