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Derby experience one to remember

Derby experience one to remember

DETROIT -- The stainless steel statues in left-center field functioned as coffee tables, collecting empty bottles and tall plastic cups of beer as fans perched on the granite pedestal of the Ty Cobb monument.

On a clear, comfortable Monday evening, Comerica Park became an open-air living room, as about 40,000 sets of eyes traced the parabolas of the balls flying out of the park during the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby.

In an unbelievable, head-shaking performance, Bobby Abreu set the tone early with a home run on his first swing, finishing his record-setting night with 24 home runs in the first round and 41 overall. Abreu's first-round explosion forced the fans in right field to the tips of their toes and prompted chants of "Bobby! Bobby!"

"That guy is on fire!" one cigar-chomping fan exclaimed.

"Seriously, get Peter [Gammons] a glove!" joked another, referring to the television analyst stationed at the ESPN booth in front of right field's Montgomery Inn BBQ restaurant.

The General Motors fountains, repeatedly erupting after long balls, soaked sections of the concrete concourse in center field. With history unfolding, fans even crouched for an obstructed view through the green railings underneath center-field advertisements.

"This is a baseball town," affirmed Matt Carpenter, standing outside a concession stand beyond left field.

The tiger-striped carousel spun children not watching the Derby. Mascots dressed as the St. Louis Cardinal and Oakland's elephant posed for photos with fans. A carnival atmosphere pervaded Comerica Park.

"I've been down here since Saturday night," said Robert Waines, a partial season-ticket holder in Detroit. "It's been great."

Player & Total
Bobby Abreu 41 56K | 350K Home Run Derby
Complete Coverage >
Ivan Rodriguez 20 56K | 350K
David Ortiz 20 56K | 350K
Carlos Lee 15 56K | 350K
Hee-Seop Choi 5 56K | 350K
Andruw Jones 5 56K | 350K
Mark Teixeira 2 56K | 350K
Jason Bay 0 56K | 350K

Hometown favorite Ivan Rodriguez walked out to a standing ovation and lasted until the final round. As a spectacular sunset colored pink, purple and Carolina blue folded in the Detroit night, Rodriguez advanced through the competition. At one point, the catcher hit to the beat of Eminem's "Lose Yourself" and scattered chants of "Pudge! Pudge! Pudge!"

The Motor City, which hasn't hosted the Midsummer Classic since 1971, received a memorable evening after such a long absence.

"Who knows when it's coming around again?" wondered Justin Marquardt, a Detroit area resident explaining why he came out for the Derby.

It's a question that could have easily been applied to Abreu's performance as well.

Patrick Mooney is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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