Friday, Feb. 11, 2000 | 9:23 a.m.
Chicks aren't the only ones who dig the long ball.
So do the major league players who belt those mammoth home runs.
"Frankly, it was the players' idea," Richard White, general manager of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said Thursday when asked how this weekend's Big League Challenge home run hitting contest at Cashman Field came about. "They wanted to put together a focused competition to help benefit charity. So it wasn't that hard. Charity brings out the best in everybody."
It certainly is bringing out the best of baseball's home run hitters.
All the main-eventers except for new Cincinnati Reds star Ken Griffey Jr. will take part in a 2000 remake of the 1959 baseball cult classic, "Home Run Derby."
Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza and Alex Rodriguez are among the dozen players who will go head-to-head in home run hitting matchups to be taped and later broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2 as a series beginning on March 20.
Preliminary, quarterfinal and semifinal rounds will each consist of five inning matches with the championship contest slated for nine innings.
Players will go against batting practice pitchers who will be grooving pitches for the batter to hit. Each player gets three outs per inning. Every ball not counted as a home run is counted as an out.
The 12 players were seeded by their 1999 home run totals. If two players were tied, the one with the highest 1998 home run total was seeded higher. McGwire (65), Sosa (63), Rafael Palmeiro (47) and Chipper Jones (45) were the top four seeds and received byes into the quarterfinals.
Saturday morning's preliminary rounds, which begin at 9:15 a.m. (gates open at 7:45), feature four matchups: No. 5 seed Manny Ramirez vs. No. 12 seed Nomar Garciaparra; No. 6 seed Alex Rodriguez vs. No. 11 seed Jason Giambi; No. 7 seed Shawn Green vs. No. 10 seed Barry Bonds and No. 8 seed Mike Piazza vs. No. 9 seed Jose Canseco.
The four winners advance to Saturday afternoon's quarterfinal rounds which begin at 1:45 p.m. (gates open at 1:15.) McGwire will face the Piazza-Canseco winner while Sosa takes on the victor of the Green vs. Bonds matchup. Jones faces the winner of the Ramirez-Garciaparra first round match while Palmeiro takes on the Rodriguez-Giambi winner.
The semifinal and final rounds on Sunday take place beginning at noon with gates opening at 10 a.m.
A limited number of tickets for all rounds were still available on Thursday afternoon although the Saturday afternoon quarterfinal round was nearing a sellout of 10,000. Tickets can be purchased at the Cashman Field box office, TicketMaster outlets or by phoning 474-4000.
The MLBPA and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Association signed a three-year contract to host the home run competition each year at Cashman Field.
"It's a great thing," Stars' general manager Don Logan said. "No question about it. It's a tremendous thing for the baseball fans of Las Vegas to be able to host something like this."
Proceeds from the Big League Challenge will benefit the Players Trust for Children, a charitable foundation created and administered by the players to benefit children through baseball and baseball-related activities.
White said he was not sure how much money the Big League Challenge would raise for the charity.
"We probably won't know that until about a week," he said.
* BIG LEAGUE CHALLENGE NOTES: One of the batting practice pitchers will be Brian Dalimore, son of former UNLV baseball coach Fred Dalimore. ... Gary Thorne, Harold Reynolds and Mike Piazza are scheduled to broadcast the competition on ESPN. ... Special video replay scoreboards will be set up at Cashman. ... White said at least one of the original Home Run Derby participants, Ernie Banks, will be on hand to view the festivities. ... The first 9,000 fans at Saturday morning's session will receive a Big League Challenge commemorative poster.