Prince Fielder and I, believe it or not, have a few things in common. We're both Brewers fans, we both like the idea of becoming vegetarians but enjoy the occasional hamburger, and we both participated in home run derbies this month while Ryan Braun watched and encouraged us.
For all practical purposes, that's where our similarities end. Prince socked a 503-foot blast en route to winning the MLB home run derby in St. Louis. I, on the other hand, hit just two home runs in Tuesday's "celebrity" media charity home run derby at Helfaer Field.
I didn't win, but I certainly didn't lose, and while one of my two shots barely cleared the 200-foot fence in dead center, the other was a legitimate dinger.
Granted, this derby was just for charity -- and because of our collective softball homers, the sponsor, AirTran, donated more than $10,000 to the YMCA. But I was still nervous all morning, not sure I could clear that short porch even once.
Now, I do fancy myself as a decent hitter when it comes to hardball. However, I have virtually no experience in the softball arena, and I was fortunate that the celebrity pitcher Davey Nelson didn't toss the bars with a huge arc. Instead, the balls were slow and straight, and I'm proud to say that I didn't whiff even once.
In fact, save for a few weak popups, I actually smoked most of the 10 pitches at which I swung. Several were scorching line drives that nearly took the heads off the kids shagging balls, a few were warning track blasts that almost cleared the fence, and of course, two were home runs. In fact, after the second dinger, I don't know what came over me, but I gestured over to Channel 4's Lance Allan -- who hit just one home run -- and yelled, "Suck it, Lance!" That was probably inappropriate for a kids' charity event, but I don't think anyone off the field heard me -- and I was starting to feel a rush of adrenaline.
Unfortunately, that excitement got the better of me, and I swung at too many pitches. Even when I decided, in advance, to take a pitch, I couldn't help trying to mash these slowly lobbed targets. As a result, I double-clutched a little and finished without another round-tripper.
Still, I did better than about half the participants. I won't name names, but a few people walked away without any home runs, and a few others left with just one. Unfortunately, the big boppers, Channel 12's Andy Kendeigh and WTMJ's Greg Matzek, hit circles around the rest of us and advanced to the next round.
Matzek, who's a friend of mind, hit some towering blasts -- a few deep enough that they might've left Miller Park, and nearly hit parked cars -- en route to winning the derby. He was really raking and knew how to play (he even brought his own bat).
For all my nerves, the celebrity home run derby turned out to be great fun, and I'm happy I was invited -- even if the "celebrity" bar must've been set extremely low for me to be included.
In between sweating profusely from the heat and the nerves, I managed to enjoy the morning, calling my shot in a Ruthian manner, taunting Lance Allan and even reassuring Braun that I'd play the role of the "Hebrew Hammer" at the event.
Of course, more importantly, a bunch of well-deserving kids had the chance to meet a Brewers' star, run around shagging balls, and receive a healthy donation for our shenanigans. Two home runs or none, it was worth it for that reason, alone. And if AirTran invites me back next year, I'll be ready. This Hebrew Hammer can get some good wood when given the chance.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.