It may be one of the showcase events of Major League Baseball’s All Star festivities, but the Home Run Derby—airing Monday night on ESPN—has never been one of this sports fan’s favorite summer happening. The competition is too bloated, the broadcast is too filled with announcers working the same schtick that grew tiresome a decade ago. Give me the celebrity softball game anytime over the three-hour slog that is the home run derby telecast.
MLB.com Home Run Derby, on the other hand—well, that’s a different story. The mobile version of the All Star week event puts you in the batters box, as you swing for the fences in a quest for longball glory.
MLB.com updated the game last week to include this year’s participants; a second update was rushed out over the weekend to include Pedro Alvarez of the Pittsburgh Pirates, added late to the real-life contest as an injury replacement. Don’t particularly care for any of the 2013 Home Run Derby participants? The game also features players from the three previous years. Competing in the cleats of a real big leaguer adds an element of realism missing from the multitude of other home run-hitting mobile apps, and as fan of stadium architecture, I particularly enjoyed taking my hacks in a smartphone-sized replica of New York’s Citi Field.
The game features two modes—Arcade Mode in which you try to smack as many homers as you can within a minute, and a Derby mode that mirrors the actual competition (only without ESPN’s insufferable announcers). Just wait for the pitch, time your swing, and launch that baseball into the upper deck.
Home Run Derby does rely on an element of mobile gaming that I wish would become as scarce as scheduled doubleheaders—in-game currency you use to boost your slugger’s baseball-bashing abilities. You earn coins and dollars based on your performance in Home Run Derby’s assorted games, but it’s a slow, steady climb to build up your bankroll. Doubtlessly, MLB.com hopes that you’ll turn to in-app purchases to bolster your virtual spending cash. Hey, if it’s good enough for the New York Yankees, it’s good enough for you.
MLB.com Home Run Derby is a free download from either Apple’s iOS App Store or Google Play for Android devices. My complaints about in-game currency aside, you’ll still have more fun in five minutes with the mobile game than you will in the three-plus hour broadcast of the real thing.