NEW YORK -- Greetings from Yankee Stadium and tonight's Home Run Derby. I have a GREAT view of the proceedings from the second deck in right field, which is far closer to the plate than right field in virtually any other ballpark. I'll keep you updated on the latest from the derby as well as some nuggets about the scene in the Bronx.
Some balls went into the upper deck in batting practice and it's weird that the famous overhang is above my head. We even hear the "clang" of the balls hitting the metal railings up there. Bizarre.
10:50 p.m. With the crowd on its feet roaring and flashbulbs everywhere, Hamilton simply had nothing left. He grounds out for the last out, finishing with just three home runs in the final and drawing huge groans. Justin Morneau, left, is the winner. Pretty anticlimactic. In future years, no one will remember who won the thing. They'll only be talking about Hamilton.
10:47 p.m: Hold on. Maybe Hamilton is spent. Four outs and only one bomb so far.
10:40 p.m. This baby is basically over. Morneau had just five for the finals. The folks in the bleachers just broke out their "box seats [stink], box seats [stink]" chant. Gotta love it.
10:25 p.m: Hamilton stayed loose with four more home runs for a total of 32. He also nearly took out a bevy of photographers with a foul rocket behind first base. What are those clowns doing so close to the plate anyway? Jeesh.
10:20 p.m.: Braun hits six more for a total of 14. So it's Hamilton and Morneau in the finals. Hamilton doesn't need to swing but he's going to take a few to stay loose before the finals.
10:17 p.m.: A brief rant: I forgot to mention I HATE the leagues' batting practice jerseys, just a total marketing play by MLB to sell more merch. Guys should be in this thing wearing their own teams' duds. End of rant. Ryan Braun is still swinging.
10:07 p.m.: Morneau adds nine more for a total of 17, eliminating Berkman. Braun is next.
10:01 p.m.: Berkman opens the semis with six more, giving him a total of 14. Not much noise. The place is drained after Hamilton. Lot of empty seats. People needed a drink or a dog or a bathroom break. No one moved when Hamilton was up -- and he was up 28 minutes!
9:49 p.m.: It's over with Hamilton at 28, making outs on his last two swings. The place erupts and players from both teams stream to the plate to greet him as the flashbulbs explode. Gotta believe that's the moment we'll remember from this derby. Amazing to see this guy do this from where he's come. "I got chills,'' Hamilton told Erin Andrews about the crowd's chants.
So it's Hamilton, Morneau, Berkman and Braun in the semis. Uggla, Sizemore, Utley and Longoria are toast.
9:47 p.m: Hamilton is up to 28 -- smashing Bobby Abreu's record of 24 set in 2005 in Detroit. The whole crowd is on its feet roaring. And let's not forget that Hamilton's pitcher is 71 years old! Yep, 71. It's his former American Legion coach Clay Council, who helped him develop a swing at age 13.
9:42 p.m. Hamilton hits No. 21 and David Ortiz walks off in mock disgust. He's seen enough and the crowd is chanting "Bos-ton stinks, Bos-ton stinks." Or something like that. Texas teammate Milton Bradley comes out to wipe Hamilton down (left).
9:40 p.m. Now the whole place is chanting "Ham-il-ton, Ham-il-ton" as the Texas slugger takes the lead with a ridiculous 18 bombs, including one that clanks off an ad board on the facing of the loge maybe 40 feet to my left. A rocket. I would have ducked. Plus he just hit one in the black that a fan tried to grab as the cops chased him and he escaped down the runway.
9:28 p.m. Attendance is announced at 53,716 (media takes up some space). Josh Hamilton has hit two monsters -- including a 502-footer off the back wall above the bleachers that get the crowd on its feet roaring. I've never even seen a ball hit that sign in batting practice all the times I've been here. Wow. The bleacherites chant in unison, "Holy Bleep, Holy Bleep". Appropriate and hysterical.
9:20 p.m.: Milwaukee's Ryan Braun makes a late rush to finish with seven home runs. The zanies in the right-field bleachers aren't impressed. They spend most of his at-bat chanting "booor-ing, boooor-ing." The top four go to the semifinals so Morneau, Berkman and Braun have clinched spots with Josh Hamilton left to hit.
9:11 p.m. As I'm watching Justin Morneau of Minnesota play pepper with the upper deck, the amazing thing is to watch the ball go into the seats at that distance while it's still rising. Pretty wild.
Morneau finished tied with Berkman for the lead with 8. So the standings are Morneau 8, Berkman 8, Uggla 6, Sizemore 6, Utley 5 and Longoria 3. Ryan Braun and Josh Hamilton to come.
9:07 p.m.: Michael Kay interviews Mariano Rivera on the field and the crowd roars. When the interview ends, over the loudspeakers come a few bars of Rivera's entrance music, "Enter Sandman". The place explodes. Just imagine what it might sound like heading into the ninth inning tomorrow.
9:02 p.m.: Houston's Lance Berkman, left, takes the lead with eight homers, recovering from a slow start. He pounded the upper deck, topped by a 476-footer, and became the first player to reach the black in center field. It felt like I was back in Las Vegas in '98 watching Berkman torment the Bisons in the Triple-A World Series.
8:57 p.m.: Berkman is up and the switch-hitter is batting left-handed to go for the short porch. He just launched a 459-footer above my head that's the longest so far.
8:48 p.m: Chase Utley finished with five home runs but he cranked one off the facing of the mezzanine where we're sitting in right. Guess you can get it here with a long drive to get it under the upper deck.
8:46 p.m.: Quick question -- What's the point of IT people if they look at people's laptops and have no idea what to do? Anyway, let's see how long this outage goes. Catching up, Grady Sizemore finished with six home runs (hooking too many foul to right field) and Tampa's Evan Longoria followed him by flaming out with only three as he was roundly booed (guess the Rays have arrived). He was also taunted from the bleachers with chants of "We want Ja-son, We want Ja-son'' by Yankee fans who would have preferred Giambi.
Before Longoria, Chase Utley and Alex Rodriguez were honored as the top votegetters. A-Rod got a huge ovation. He should be out here swinging.
8:30 p.m.: Grady Sizemore smoked his first two for home runs -- including one over my head into the upper deck. Then he drilled a foul ball into the seats. Bet those folks weren't expecting that!
8:27 p.m.: Decent start for Florida's Dan Uggla with six home runs. Just noticed the "Hit it Here" sign to win a million bucks. It's well to the left of the linescore above the fabled bleachers in deep left-center field. There is no way -- no way -- anyone is coming close to that. Silly.
Ex-Bison Grady Sizemore of the Indians is up next taking aim at me in RF. That's ex-Herd skipper Jeff Datz pitching to him.
8:18 p.m: Michael Kay is interviewing Reggie Jackson on the field. What if Jackson had been in a derby: "I would have dropped them in the upper deck and won 'em all. No problem." Would it have hurt your swing? "I don't know but it wouldn't have bothered me." Hmmm. Is that a shot at A-Rod?
8:15 p.m.: As soon as ESPN signed on, the wireless has started cutting in and out. Lots of frayed nerves out here.
8:14 p.m.: standing o and the obligatory "Reg-gie, Reg-gie" chants as Reggie Jackson goes to the mound to throw a first pitch with Derek Jeter catching. And the flashbulbs are popping. The crowd chants "Der-ek Je-ter, Der-ek Je-ter"
8:08 p.m: There introducing the lineups and flashbulbs are popping everywhere. But no Alex Rodriguez. He should have accepted the invitation. ESPN.com's Jayson Stark took him to task yesterday and I agree. A-Rod should be here. No one would chant "Ma-donna" here. (OK, maybe not as many people would).
8:04 p.m.: Hey, I like that Yankee Stadium home run montage ESPN just showed. Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Chris Chambliss, Reggie Jackson, Aaron Boone. I can see every spot where those balls landed. Awesome.
7:56 p.m: "Three Doors Down" just started a mini-concert on a stage behind second base. Shame on me, perhaps. Am I supposed to know who they are?
7:53 p.m.: Yankees announcer Michael Kay will be our in-house host on the field. Better than hearing Chris Berman scream all night you would think, except that Kay just called the derby "one of the greatest spectacles in all of sports." Huh? Um, no.
Of course, everyone in the press box was hoping for Erin Andrews. No dice there.
7:45 p.m.: The Red Sox and Mets are not going to get ANY respect here these two days. Mets third baseman David Wright got booed hard during a batting practice interview on the field with Yankees announcer John Sterling showed on the video board and that was expected. But they just introduced an all-star lineup of mascots and who got howling hoots? Mr. Met and Wally the Green Monster.
At least I was able to simply walk out here and not take an elevator ride with the mascots like I did last year. I saw that Mariner Moose on the field tonight and I had flashbacks of an antler to the head.
(Photos: Associated Press)