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Forget driving to many of the world’s biggest professional sporting events this summer: Most of them are FAR away. The World Cup takes place in South Africa, England hosts Wimbledon in July, the same month France gets a big ol’ boner for its Tour de France, and professional tennis’ U.S. Open is in Queens.
But sometimes, the greatest pro athletes in the world come to us.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP OF SKIMBOARDING
June 19-20, Aliso State Park, Laguna Beach
“This is the one contest that people travel to from all around the world,” says Tex Hines, the co-founder and owner of Victoria Skimboards, which has hosted the event for 34 years. “It’s the biggest field and the best competition.”
“Orange County really is the world capital of skimboarding,” says Nick Aleandro, the team manager of Victoria Skimboards’ group of sponsored riders. “We’ve got really good conditions, and [the techniques] of skimboarding really lend themselves to skateboarding. So kids here start really young, and they can do it year-round. But the sport is definitely changing. We’re starting to see great competition from other parts of the country and internationally.”
Though it doesn’t get the enormous gallery of a certain surfing championship held in Huntington Beach later in the summer, the WCS draws its own healthy contingent, Aleandro says, largely because the farthest skimboarders can catch a wave is maybe 30 yards off-shore.
This year is distinctive because it’s the first year women will compete for a cash prize. About 120 to 140 contestants participate each year, but most competitions begin and end with Bill Bryan; the Laguna Beach resident has won a mindboggling 14 times.
“He’s heroic beyond belief,” Hines says. “There are a lot of guys just waiting from him to retire, but he’s still out there in his mid-30s, just pummeling away.”
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL ALL-STAR GAME
July 13, Angel Stadium, Anaheim
Some other heroes—and ridiculously well-paid ones at that—will converge on Angel Stadium in July. Unlike every other major-sport all-star game, the midsummer contest between the fan-voted starting lineup and the manager-selected reserves of the American League (AL) and National League (NL) actually means something. Since the 2002 game was disastrously called a draw after the score was tied at 7 after 11 innings, MLB has decreed that whichever league wins draws home-field advantage in the World Series.
Some new wrinkles for this year’s contest include the permanent inclusion of a designated hitter, regardless of which league is hosting the event; a one-man roster increase to 34 players; and a bending of normal baseball rules to allow one position player to re-enter the game if necessitated by injury.
This is the third year Anaheim has hosted the All-Star game; the first year was a classic, and the second featured a classic moment.
In 1967, Cincinnati Red Tony Perez blasted a home run in the top of the 15th inning that proved the difference in an NL 2-1 win. Not the most exciting game from an offensive standpoint, but just consider that 20 players who’d wind up in baseball’s Hall of Fame participated, including Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays and Tom Seaver. The big blow in the 1989 All-Star game at Anaheim came early: Bo Jackson’s mammoth home run in the bottom of the first. At the time, Jackson was as big an athlete as there was in the country—remember the whole “Bo Knows” campaign?—and he delivered with gusto. Former Angel Nolan Ryan got the win that day, in a 5-3 AL victory. (Don’t look for any Angels to make the starting lineup this year.)
The All-Star game brings much more to town than the world’s best baseball players: The All-Star Fan Fest will be held July 9 to 13 at the Anaheim Convention Center. It’s 45,000 square feet of interactive activities and a slew of exhibits honoring the All-Star Game and baseball. Tickets are $30 for adults and $25 for kids 12 and under; brats under 2 are free.
Then there’s All-Star Sunday, which takes place two days before the All-Star game and includes a futures game, featuring hot domestic and international prospects, as well as a celebrity softball game. It’s a five-inning contest that is a lot of fun and attracts baseball legends and a decent selection of celebs. (Look for that contingent to be even brighter this year due to the whole SoCal thing.) But you pay for the privilege: The cheapest available tickets as of late May started at $75.
Finally, there’s the home-run derby the night before the big game. This exhibition of brute force is nearly as popular as the actual All-Star Game, with live TV coverage on ESPN. Tickets for the derby, which is part of the Gatorade All-Star Workout Day, run $145 to $330, all of which is donated to charity.
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