KANSAS CITY, Mo. — So far, one shot at the Home Run Derby has been plenty for Ryan Braun.
Though he leads the National League with 24 homers at the All-Star break, Braun’s stock answer the past several years is he enjoys watching, thank you.
The Milwaukee Brewers slugger participated for the first and perhaps last time in 2008 at Yankee Stadium. He remembered being under the most pressure he’d ever experienced while in the batter’s box, and then being wiped out at the finish.
“I don’t think I’ve ever really been nervous when I’ve stepped on a baseball field other than that,” Braun said. “More so than the postseason, more so than when I first got to the major leagues.”
Braun, at least, made it to the semifinals in that slug-off in New York, best remembered for the show Josh Hamilton put on.
Former home run king Mark McGwire, now the Cardinals batting coach, won the event in 1992, was an annual participant and remembers having a good time. He’d like to see the amount of misses, now 10 per round, perhaps cut in half to keep things moving but otherwise thinks it’s a great showcase.
In the early days, McGwire remembered, hitters had just three outs to do damage.
“I think it’s one of the best parts of the All-Star Game,” McGwire said. “I used to really enjoy doing it. You had to let loose and say ‘Hey, I’m going to have fun.’
“But some guys stress out, thinking it might ruin their swing.”
Braun ticks off the reasons why not to swing. The setting is unfamiliar, there’s no batting cage, cameras are stationed all over the field and a packed house has its eyes fixed on in anticipation you’ll muscle up on a practice cut.
Braun didn’t say for certain he’ll never say yes again, although the more he talked the more points he brought up in favor of not participating.
“That day I remember being exhausted mentally, and emotionally it’s draining, too,” Braun said. “It’s just a different experience, and I just remember it took a lot out of me.
“The All-Star experience is amazing but it’s nice to come back rejuvenated.”
CAMEO APPEARANCE: National League All-Star manager Tony La Russa’s longtime right-hand man doesn’t think he’ll return to the game, either.
Dave Duncan, La Russa’s pitching coach for more than 30 years with the White Sox, Athletics and Cardinals, is on an open-ended leave of absence to be with his ailing wife and is living in southwest Missouri.
He hasn’t officially retired but said Tuesday he didn’t anticipate coaching again.
Janine Duncan’s condition has stabilized after surgery to remove a brain tumor last summer.
BY THE NUMBERS: Baseball is a game in which numbers matter, where statistic such as a pitcher’s ERA or a player’s batting average can have a dramatic impact on future contracts
Of course, people are keeping track of other numbers during the All-Star festivities.
As in, there are 80 barbeque joints in Kansas City, more per capita than any other U.S. city, according to the Kansas City Barbeque Society. And there are more than 200 fountains in the so-called “City of Fountains,” five of which have been colored blue for All-Star weekend.
There are also five statues in the shape of crowns throughout the city, each of them weighing half a ton. They are part of the city’s embrace of the annual Midsummer Classic.