Charity true winner of Home Run Derby
Contributions from long balls, gold and otherwise, reach $665K
ST. LOUIS -- The most staggering sights of Monday night's State Farm Home Run Derby probably were those of the 503-foot moonshot hit by winner Prince Fielder, or that first-round ball into the fourth deck in left by runner-up Nelson Cruz, or the time when they turned the house music up to encourage Albert Pujols during his first-round at-bat as camera flashes sparkled.
But really, it was hard to top what you saw on the giant check sitting in front of Fielder in the news conference afterward. It read: $665,000. That was about double the total of last year's contribution to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, largely the result of adding $5,000 per normal home run in addition to the usual $17,000 per gold ball.
"It was really a part of Major League Baseball's 'Going Beyond' efforts," explained Todd Fischer, manager of national sponsorships for State Farm. "It was a matter of doing more, especially in this time. We have 17,000 agents and we're out there where people live, and there's no better way to help than with MLB's 'Going Beyond' program."
Every move that is made in the events surrounding this 80th All-Star Game at Busch Stadium is overshadowed by that "Going Beyond" theme, as fans have seen from the start and as they will see all the way through the end of the Midsummer Classic. The Home Run Derby was just the latest demonstration of the efforts that are taking center stage along with players.
MLB responded to President Barack Obama's call for community service through "United We Serve," a program that encourages Americans to engage in sustained and meaningful community service. Examples of the results so far have been the All-Star Charity Concert presented by Pepsi, which benefited Stand Up To Cancer; the first All-Star Charity 5K, which helped not only Stand Up To Cancer but also Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation; the presence of 30 People magazine All-Stars Among Us who will be introduced and celebrated by the living U.S. presidents before Tuesday's game; and what just happened on a sultry summer night for long balls in front of a packed house at Busch.
Fielder won with a total of 23 home runs at an average of 439 feet, and that included two gold balls in the first round. Those, as is now customary each year, are inserted by the pitcher whenever the batter has nine of his allotted 10 outs per at-bat. That means Fielder accounted for $105,000 for the regular homers and another $34,000 for the gold balls. It's a pretty good night when you can swing a baseball bat and give $139,000 total to a charity in the process.
"It's really cool," Fielder said, clearly exhausted after the night of swinging lumber loaned by Brewers teammates Rickie Weeks and then Ryan Braun. "It's something you see growing up as a kid, and I'm just happy my kids were here and also I got to win. That's a big plus. So a very cool night."
There was a kid sitting right next to him at the dais during the post-Derby news conference. She was Kylie Kochel, 14, from a club in Bethalto, Ill., right across the river. Kochel was part of the Boys & Girls Club player matchup program, and she was matched up with Fielder. So her club now has part of that $665,000 -- $50,000 that, according to Fischer, it can apply toward new computers, renovations and school supplies that will benefit the club for many years.
All of the eight matchup youths were representing local B&G Clubs, Fischer said, and the seven whose contestants did not win will each receive $10,000 for their club. So that means $120,000 stays in the local community after All-Star Week is over, and the rest goes to the national Boys & Girls Clubs organization, which is MLB's longstanding official charity.
Fielder talked at length about the baseball-crushing matters of the night. He nudged the microphone over to Kylie to answer the question about what it meant for such a huge number to appear on that oversized check in front of them.
"It means a lot, because I know that I had a small part in helping with the teen center, and it is just a good feeling knowing that we're going to have a better place to hang out, and I'm just very proud," she said.
"What a wonderful evening for the city of St. Louis and State Farm and all these folks -- an amazing State Farm Home Run Derby," Fischer said. "While we sit here tonight and look at Prince as the overall Home Run Derby champion, there are so many winners to talk about. The largest group of them all is the Boys & Girls Club tonight. State Farm stepped up to the plate this year and beyond just the gold ball, came up with $5,000 for every non-gold ball home run. Hopefully at a time when it means the most, it will make a lasting impact.
"This night won't be soon forgotten."
Players get in the act by tying charity into this event as well. Adrian Gonzalez and his wife, Betsy, will donate $400 -- $200 for each home run he hit -- to The Adrian and Betsy Gonzalez Foundation and the Padres Foundation to benefit children. The Padres committed to match their donation and the Trinity Bat Co. will also donate $100 for each Gonzalez home run in the event. Naturally Gonzalez was hoping for a far larger total, but it's something.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.