The hex of the homer derby

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

The home-run derby is essentially a made-for-TV event, and during the past few years it has affected the players dramatically.

There are many times participants have come into the derby swinging a hot bat but then have gone cold the rest of the Major League Baseball season. If it's all for TV, Sportsnet will try to find out what it has done to players when it delves into the subject during its MLB '09 All-Star Edition pre-game show Monday.

There are several high-profile cases, such as Bobby Abreu, Garrett Anderson and Josh Hamilton, but it even affected Canadian Justin Morneau, who won the contest a year ago and backed out this year.

"It's the struggles of altering the swing to get the ball out of the park, or some players say it may be just a mental thing," said Sportsnet producer Paul Sidhu, who is putting together the pre-game shows.

"The numbers do bear out that some players have their homers dip in the second half of the season. You will never get a player to say there is a curse.

"Whether we blamed Babe Ruth or a billy goat, curses are always there for fans. This is possibly one that is out there.

"It's more of a light-hearted piece."

Sportsnet will have Brad Fay as host of the pre-game shows for both the derby and the all-star game Tuesday, while reporter Arash Madani gets the plum assignment on the scene in St. Louis.

Analyst Ken Rosenthal will give his thoughts on several subjects and both half-hour shows will go live, which creates obvious challenges. Sidhu is hoping Madani will get live interviews with Canadians Morneau and Jason Bay, as well as Roy Halladay and Aaron Hill of the Blue Jays.

It might not happen in perfect timing. "This is the beauty of live television," Sidhu said. "You roll with the punches. You can't always control what is going on around you but you do have backup plans where you can go.

"These are the most fun shows to put together.

You never know what is going to happen at a certain time."

When the hitters get down to real business during the derby, ESPN will provide the coverage and has added an interesting feature. The worldwide leader will debut Ball Track, which uses Doppler radar to follow the dingers.

The new technology will show real-time distance the balls are travelling, create a colour trail of the arch and project whether it will be a tater by the different colours.

ESPN will again put 20 cameras on the hitters to capture those beautiful swings in Ultra Mo, replays that use 1,000 frames per second.

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The day after the MLB all-star game is the one day of the year where there are no games scheduled in any of the major sports.

Mark Hebscher of CHCH Hamilton argues that the CFL is missing the boat by not capitalizing on this quiet day. Clearly with the season-opening games starting on a Canada Day Wednesday, scheduling wasn't an issue this year, nor is there a problem with getting facilities.

Think about it next Wednesday when there are no major sports to watch on TV.

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It's a good thing Milt Stegall doesn't drink. After getting honoured with a celebration Friday in Winnipeg, the former star receiver will jet to Toronto to make his debut Saturday with the CFL on a TSN panel for an early afternoon game ...

Katherine Dolan has started at TSN as a Toronto reporter, covering Raptors, Argos, Maple Leafs and Blue Jays. She is a maternity-leave replacement for Sara Orlesky, who likely will be off until next February's Olympics. Dolan will also head to Vancouver to cover freestyle skiing.

The network will have to find a fill-in for anchor Holly Horton, who is also expecting.


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