Who scales wall? `Superman'

AL's Hunter puts focus on game early by taking away homer from Bonds

July 10, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

MILWAUKEE - It was baseball at its finest, all in one single play.

Barry Bonds hitting a ball long enough to clear the outfield fence. Torii Hunter running fast enough and leaping high enough to make the catch.

It was the first inning at Miller Park, and the All-Star Game was finally about baseball again. Not labor strife. Not steroids. Just two players doing the thing they do better than anyone else on the planet - all in one single play.

"Unbelievable," said Bonds' National League teammate Sammy Sosa. "For a moment, I thought [Hunter] was Michael Jordan, my God. You know, that kid impresses everybody like a Superman right there."

Before the game last night, Major League Baseball showed some of its 30 most memorable moments on the video scoreboard. A little later, fans saw another one live.

Bonds, who set a major-league record with 73 home runs last season with the Giants, took a pitch from Red Sox pitcher Derek Lowe, the American League's starter, and sent a towering blast to deep right-center field.

Hunter, who won his first Gold Glove Award last season for the Minnesota Twins, raced over and made a play that has made him a regular on the highlight shows.

"I've seen it so many times on TV," Lowe said. "It was amazing. That's what people come here to see."

Running near second base, Bonds realized Hunter had made the catch, and smiled. Bonds, an eight-time Gold Glove winner himself, met Hunter on his way back to the dugout and hoisted him over his shoulder.

It was an image that might have defined this game, had it not ended in a 7-7 tie after the 11th inning because both managers were afraid of overextending their last pitchers.

Hunter said he understood their decision because "you don't want guys getting hurt."

Asked about his catch, Hunter said, "I went back, and I knew it was Barry Bonds. This guy can hit. And the ball was hit in Miller Park, so I knew it was going to fly. I didn't think I had it at first, but I did. That made my day, believe me."

Two innings after Hunter's catch, Bonds hit a two-run homer off Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay. That time, he hit it to a place Hunter couldn't reach, lining the ball several rows over the right-field wall.

As the innings passed, and the starting players came out of the game, they still seemed in awe of Hunter's catch.

"I think everybody was speechless," said Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Curt Schilling, who pitched two scoreless innings as the National League's starter. "It's always awesome in an All-Star Game to see an All-Star do what got him here. Those are the moments that people will never forget when they are here and watching the game."

Bonds has 27 home runs this season, so fans have grown plenty used to seeing his big left-handed swing. For Hunter, this was more of a national coming-out party. He went 0-for-2 in this All-Star Game, but for Twins fans this season, he's been a taller, more-streamlined version of Hall of Fame center fielder Kirby Puckett.

While Hunter's defense was terrific each of his first three seasons in the big leagues, this year he has also distinguished himself with his bat. After hitting .261 with 27 home runs and 92 RBIs last year, he is batting .306 with 20 home runs and 61 RBIs this season.

And as the All-Stars saw again last night, his defense hasn't suffered a bit.

"That's one of the things that makes the game as great as it is," Schilling said. "Every night, you get to see something you have never seen before."

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