Have you ever been through Little League try-outs? Whether you have or haven’t, this is how it generally goes down. You need to prove you can hit a ball, catch a pop-up, and field grounders. Then within a day or two, a coach will give you a call inviting you to play for their team. It’s basic, but shows them how developed your fundamental skills of the game are.
This got me thinking…
What if MLB spent the whole of the day before the All-Star Game doing skills competitions?
It already does one in the Home Run Derby. Hear me out.
The NBA and NHL already have skills combines in their All-Star calendar. Whether it be hitting X number of 3s in a minute or seeing who tops the radar gun on a slap shot, these events have become staples in their respective leagues.
My proposal? Let’s pack as many of these things in as we can. The Home Run Derby is the grand finale, so what would we watch leading up to it?
This could cover a number of speed skills. For instance…
This is pretty self-explanatory. Pitchers throw as hard as they can to see who tops the radar gun. This could be dangerous and cause injury, but tell me you wouldn’t love to see that radar gun hit somewhere closer to 110.
Race around the bases
The idea is the runner sprints around the bases. They get three tries, and the fastest times move on. There are a few ways to do this.
- Someone lines up with their back foot on the first base side of home plate, the GO is given, they’re off to the races.
- There’s a running start and the time will begin when the runner crosses home plate on their way to first, and ends the second time they cross the plate.
- A batter needs to lay a bunt down the line, so they’re not able to take off for first until they’ve made contact with the ball.
This feels like it could live under the speed category. However, the art of the pickoff is truly an equation. Quick feet + accurate throw + well placed tag = successful pickoff. Points would be given based upon accuracy. If a pitcher throws the ball into the dirt in front of first and it skips past, they’re not going to do as well as if they make a low throw that allows the first baseman, who is essentially acting as the assist man in a dunk contest, to drop a tag on the arm, hand, or shoulder of the runner for the out.
It’s so satisfying to see a catcher set up down and away, then watch them not have to move as the pitcher hits their spot. In this event, there would be targets set up, and points awarded based on how accurately the pitcher hits the required spot. Different points could be given depending on the difficulty of a pitch. Would a fastball on the outside corner be worth the same as a sweeping curve hitting the same spot? You tell me.
The “Tools Challenge”
This event would be an obstacle course of sorts, all based on situational baseball. Can a batter drop a bunt down the line to score a runner and still make it safely to first? If there is a 2-1 count with runners on the corners, can a batter hit a gap shot to score the runner on third and advance the runner on first at least as far as third.
From a normal starting position in the outfield, can the fielder run down a ball and make the catch? If a ball gets to the wall, can they make a throw from the warning track into a barrel placed at home plate? Scores would need to be given based on the number of attempts, pitches taken, etc. There’s an endless number of things that could live here, so the key is to figure out what should and what shouldn’t.
Tell me you don’t get excited by bat flips and I’ll tell you you’re a liar. I don’t know if there would be enough variety here, but cut me some slack. This could be cool as hell.
Every time a ball bloops into shallow center or is launched into the gap we all hope to see an outfielder leave their feet and come up with something spectacular. There’s also the occasional wall climb. Points for creativity here, folks.
The Flashiest Throws to First
Admittedly, I don’t know if this could be a thing, or what to call it. But I’m thinking Nomar runs deep into the hole at short and somehow makes the turn to first. Jeter with his hop throw. Barehanding a slow roller down the line.
I’m clearly here for the speed, accuracy, and style.
But there are nearly endless opportunities. Let’s make baseball fun again. What do YOU think should be included in the MLB All-Star Skills Challenge (I hope to trademark this)?
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