HR Derby dials up for Boys and Girls Clubs
Each long ball increases donation to Anaheim youth centers
ANAHEIM -- The home runs are always impressive, the top distances always approach the 500-foot mark, the astonishment and awe are always on the face of spectators in the stands, and the participants always go down swinging. It's always a memorable time.
But the State Farm Home Run Derby is really moving into new territory each year now. The running total appeared on the giant scoreboard throughout the night, as mind-boggling as a 100-mph radar-gun readout during a typical summer night's game here at Angel Stadium, and in the end it read: $573,000. That is how much money was generated by the power of eight sluggers, going to eight local Boys and Girls Clubs and marking a quantum leap in 2010.
Sitting next to '10 winner David Ortiz at the podium in the post-Derby press conference, Todd Fisher, manager of national sponsorships for State Farm, said: "We thank David and the rest of their participants for their efforts, because without them, this isn't possible and extremely proud of David to be such a great ambassador for the State Farm Home Run Derby and Major League Baseball."
Then Ortiz, putting the net effect first and foremost, relaying its importance, quickly replied: "You don't have to thank me. I have to thank you. Because as a kid, you always want to grow up in a family that supports you and gives you the chance and the opportunity to be somebody in the future, help you out and teach you how to do the right thing. And I think it's amazing that you guys are doing that. It's going to cover a lot of things, so thank you."
Special gold balls are inserted whenever a Derby participant gets to nine outs, and there were 12 gold balls knocked over the wall Monday night, each of them worth $17,000 -- a number representing the number of total State Farm agents -- to the Boys and Girls Club. Matt Holliday accounted for four of those in his first round, before finally being retired. All non-gold ball home runs were worth $3,000 each. The tally kept growing by leaps and bounds all night, as breathtaking as Big Papi's moonshots into the right-field stands.
"Being the official charity of Major League Baseball, we're just honored every year to have this opportunity," said Frank Sanchez, vice president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. "This type of money is going to help eight Boys and Girls Clubs in the Anaheim area. That means there are going to be thousands of kids that will be impacted by these dollars. Seventeen centers will be refurbished and one teen center will be renovated, so a lot of kids will benefit from this opportunity.
"We're grateful to State Farm and we're always grateful to Major League Baseball for their years of support. Every year that I come here, I don't take it for granted that we have this partnership with Major League Baseball, that they use this opportunity to raise dollars for charity."
Major League Baseball's partnership with State Farm for the Home Run Derby began with the '07 All-Star Game in San Francisco, and has continued at Yankee Stadium in '08, Busch Stadium in '09 and now Angel Stadium. The result has been a combined $1.7 million generated for Boys and Girls Clubs from the Home Run Derby sluggers.
It was at the '08 New York event that the player-child matchup program started in conjunction with the event, so Monday marked the third year for that. All eight contestants are partnered with a child from a local Boys and Girls Club chapter.
Malik Campbell, 11, was sitting next to Big Papi at the podium during the post-Derby news conference, and he wore a Red Sox cap, even though he may be an Angels fan at heart. He is a member of the nearby Fullterton Boys and Girls Club, and his ability to articulate what it mean belied his age.
"I think it was a good opportunity for my club and my teen center, and I thank Major League Baseball and State Farm for helping us have this opportunity," Campbell said.
What will his friends at the club say?
"They're probably going to be happy," he replied. Knowing there will be construction work to come, he added: "Most of them, they're going to be there in a couple of years, so they're going to be very happy."
In every market, the Home Run Derby has been able to create a legacy that lives on. There have been eight club renovations in each of the markets since the matchup program has existed, effecting 24 clubs over the past three years.
"When you start to add that up and you think about how many kids that actually touches over the course of the year, not to mention the additional dollars that are going to clubs across the country, it's unfathomable," Fischer said.
"It's special, especially when you see the looks on the kids' faces, meeting the players, having the opportunity to come in and represent their clubs the way players represent their clubs. That's a special experience. Then to actually go back and look at the impact that these donations have had on clubs and communities across the country is really remarkable, because it's making a real difference for kids."
Campbell won $50,000 for his club by virtue of Ortiz's championship. The other seven participants still get $10,000 apiece for the Boys and Girls Clubs they represent. That's a total of $120,000 from the matchup program that is included in the overall $573,000 donated to the Boys and Girls Club, meaning the per-ball contribution equaled $453,000 of that amount.
Where does it go? Take last year's winning club in Bethalto, Ill. That chapter did renovations to turn it from a small, one-room club to expand it with computer facilities and gaming areas.
Unfortunately, no one managed to touch either of those two big "Hit It Here" signs during this Derby. Had a player hit one of them, MasterCard would have donated $1 million to Stand Up To Cancer. One was placed far back in left field, beyond reach of even the best sluggers on this night, and the other was placed on the green batter's eye, well back, in right-center. In coming years, perhaps those will enter the equation. For now, $573,000 was certainly enough.