Editor’s Note: ESPN will televise the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby tonight at 8 p.m. ET. In addition, the 2012 Taco Bell Legends & Celebrity Softball Game will air immediately following the Derby telecast.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — ESPN analyst Rick Sutcliffe holds Kansas City baseball near and dear to his heart.
That’s not surprising for a kid from Independence, Mo., but Sutcliffe’s first impression of Kauffman Stadium — home of the Kansas City Royals and host to this week’s All-Star festivities — wasn’t a favorable one.
“I grew up literally right here. I had a tree house with my brother and our friends that literally might have been on this very field,” said Sutcliffe. The venue opened as Royals Stadium in April 1973.
“We were upset when the bulldozers came in and started tearing down everything.”
Soon, Sutcliffe forgave and forgot. More than 40 years later, he returns to his hometown as a baseball hero and as an instrumental part of ESPN’s All-Star coverage.
“I don’t think people realize the impact of something this big, particularly to a smaller city like Kansas City,” he said. “This city really needed this. This entire week has really given the restaurants, the hotels and the city a second life.”
Sunday, Sutcliffe called the Sirius XM Futures Game with fellow Monday Night Baseball analyst Aaron Boone and Steve Berthiaume and he participated in the Legends & Celebrity Softball Game (played Sunday and airing tonight after the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby on ESPN).
“It’s been a long time since there’s been anything to really get excited about from a sports standpoint in Kansas City,” Sutcliffe said.
And Kansas City sports fans aren’t the only ones excited. Sunday’s Futures Game was special for Sut.
“It’s my favorite game of the year and it has been for a long time. To me, it’s the most exciting game played all year,” said Sutcliffe.
However, Sutcliffe avoided working his favorite game of the year when he first started.
“I wanted to sit all by myself and scout it. Then I realized that I could do both at the same time,” he said.
In addition to contributing to SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight segments throughout MLB All-Star festivities, his other major responsibility is the Legends & Celebrity Softball Game.
But this time he won’t be calling the game — he was a participant.
“I’m a 55 year-old cancer survivor, I don’t need to be out there trying to steal a base, but obviously being here at home its special,” Sutcliffe said.
“I had my wife and all kinds of nieces and nephews at the ballpark. It was fun to be out there. I was truly glad that I did it.”
And, it sounds like the Softball Game is one that fans don’t want to miss.
“I will tell you that the most exciting moment — no doubt — is the last at-bat of the game. There is a moment where I thought aloud, ‘I don’t know if I’ve heard this stadium this loud since 1985.’”
And Kansas City’s own Rick Sutcliffe would know best.
ESPN Radio will also have the MLB Homerun Derby across ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Mobile TV, WatchESPN and ESPN3 — available for the first time in both English and Spanish — online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app and through ESPN on Xbox LIVE.
ESPN Radio’s Sunday Night Baseball team Jon Sciambi and Chris Singleton will describe the action with additional on-site commentary from host Mark Kestecher and reporters John Rooney and Peter Pascarelli.
In addition, the team will return Tuesday night for ESPN Radio’s exclusive broadcast of the 83rd MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 10, with coverage beginning at 7 p.m.