Ticket prices to attend the Major League Baseball All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby sailed as high as many of the home runs hit by the likes of Albert Pujols, Juan Soto and Pete Alonso.
And yet the thousands who braved the heat to watch dozens of towering balls soar out of Dodger Stadium on Monday, July 18, said it was well worth the cost to catch a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in this precursor to Tuesday’s All-Star Game.
This year’s annual All-Star home run tournament lacked a single current Dodgers or Angels player in its brackets. But that didn’t seem to matter to Angelenos or to the of scores of tourists who traveled from cities as far as New York to catch a glimpse of the Midsummer Classic’s annual power pop.
As daylight started to wane in Chavez Ravine, Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals star won the Derby, outslugging Seattle Mariners rookie Julio Rodríguez in the finals.
Much earlier, however, gates opened at 2 p.m. but crowds came to claim a spot in line hours earlier.
With gloves in hand and Dodgers blue in his bloodstream, Juan Matias Gomez could hardly contain his excitement as he readied to enjoy All Star Weekend for the first time with his loved ones.
“This was a place of many people,” Gomez said, trying to describe the history of Dodger Stadium, which was home to such sluggers as Duke Snider, Mike Piazza and Pedro Guerrero . “And now it’s a place for us.”
His sister and father echoed the sentiment a few hours before the sultans of swing showed up.
“I think just the fact that it’s at Dodger home land – that alone is special,” said Juan Gomez, the father of little Juan and Isabella. “But when you add the fact we get to experience it together — that’s special,” said Juan Gomez, the father of the younger Juan and his sister Isabella Gomez. “It’s hard to explain but we weren’t even born when the last All Star Game was here so it’s great to be here, especially all together.”
Los Angeles Angels’ perennial All-Star Mike Trout — kept out of this year’s game by back spasms — agreed during an interview later in the day.
“It’s very special. I get to bring my son. I think that’s one of the coolest things. Obviously, ten All-Stars is great but being able to share it with my son for the first time is even more special.”
While batters continued practicing and their peers completed interviews on the field below, Anne Marie Pastoral and her son Matthew Becerra took their seats after traveling from Downey for the third day in a row.
The family has been season ticket holders “off and on 16 years,” Pastoral said.
“But All-Star weekend is much more different,” Becerra said, than anything he’s experienced in his 14 years on Earth.
“The vibes are just different. It’s more like a party than anything else because of the DJs, everybody is singing and they’re really a lot more into it, I think, than during regular games,” Becerra added.
Andrew Reynolds, son of former major leaguer Harold Reynolds, stood — surrounded by a scrum of top-tier superstars including Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts — in a state of shock.
Admitting he didn’t think he’d find himself at the event until he played in it himself — perhaps seven years from now, the hopeful lad said — Reynolds juggled a Sharpie in one hand and a baseball in hand, roaming for autographs. The derby, he chirped, “has been one of the best experiences of my life.”
Standing nearby, sixth-graders Caden Valentino and Joey Miller wandered the field, searching for their own autographs, in a state of disbelief.
Their best friend, J.J. Shaw — who invited them to travel from Arizona to L.A. for All-Star Weekend — was busy preparing to shag balls for Derby participants such as Corey Seager — who swung for the fences later in the day while his own father pitched from the mound.
“All we want is a National League win,” Valentino said.
Up in the suites, Pastoral touched on another prevalent theme during the evening: the lore that is Dodger Stadium.
“I can’t stop appreciating all of the history because there’s so much that’s happened here,” Pastoral said. “The jerseys from all of the other states are amazing because you start to think of all the names who’ve played here since it was built. And this is literally the grounds where they played.”
It wasn’t a cheap evening, he added.
However: “Even though it pains me to come,” Pastoral said, speaking of the cost of tickets, “it really is a home away from home.”
She added: “And it will always be ‘Go Dodgers!’”