Capitalizing on the success of its “Home Run Derby,” Major League Baseball announced that next year’s All-Star Game festivities will see a “Groundout-To-First Derby.” In this unique competition, the league’s best players will attempt to make poor contact with a hard-breaking curve ball, slider, or sinker and weakly dribble it up the first base line for an unassisted “3” out. Balls that somehow make it to the outfield will not count toward the batter’s point tally.

“We saw how fans are willing to stare vacantly for hours at ‘roided up guys with batting averages in the low .200s trying to hit pitches thrown by their high school coaches into the seats,” said MLB senior vice-president for innovation, Bill Reynolds. “So we figured they’ll go for this, too. It’s every bit as mind-numbing and commercial-friendly as the Home Run Derby, but this way, the players don’t have to exert themselves and risk an injury. Plus, we don’t have to watch all those stupid kids running around the outfield trying to catch something.”

League officials were said to be initially skeptical of the new competition, but they were convinced after watching hours of taped “highlights” of recent Cubs, Astros and Mariners games.

“There’s something calming about it … reassuring even,” said one participant in a focus group held in an anonymous hotel near the Spokane airport. “It’s the derby for us ‘everymen’ in the audience.”

The schedule for the 2014 festivities has not yet been released, but the Groundout-To-First Derby is expected to eat up about 7.3 hours of airtime starting mid-morning.

“We just hope there aren’t many ‘Buckner-Moments’ that kill the mellow and over-excite our audience,” added Reynolds. “It’s going to be huge, in that signature dull ASG way.”

Cary Nathenson