MIAMI - It was only fitting that the 2017 Major League Baseball All-Star Game ended on a home run. After all, it's been a season about home runs.
Balls have been leaving stadiums at an all-time record pace.
Robinson Cano ended the midsummer classic with a solo homer, giving the American League a 2-1, 10-inning victory over the National League at Marlins Park on Tuesday night.
It capped a banner All-Star week that featured Aaron Judge's impressive HR Derby win that elevated him and his big home run bat to the face of baseball right here, right now.
Indeed, baseball is back and so is the long ball.
Daily Recap: Robinson Cano earned MVP honors as his go-ahead home run in the 10th inning sent the American League to a 2-1 victory Check out http://MLB.com/video for more! About MLB.com: Former Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced on January 19, 2000, that the 30 Major League Club owners voted unanimously to centralize all of Baseball's Internet operations into an independent technology company.
MLB should be happy, embrace it.
Somehow, following the Steroid Era, home runs were frowned upon, pooh-poohed, if you will.
The league was more into manufacturing runs and taking extra bases. It was cool, but not sexy.
The home run, however, has always been.
It's the reason most loved the old saying , "Chicks love the long ball."
It's a perfect marriage. It's the backbone of baseball, what fans love and enjoy.
It still is the thing that drives the sport, makes fans leave their seats. That long fly that leaves the park electrifies a crowd every time.
It was long ago that the homer helped save the game from the gloom and doom of a players' strike that stopped the season and halted the World Series in 1994. It was only the second time in the game's history that the Fall Classic wasn't played.
This season has to remind you of falling back in love with the sport after watching Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa go toe-to-toe, slugging it out, hitting home runs all over Baseball America.
And while Aaron Judge has made a huge splash as a rookie in New York with the Yankees - he has an MLB-leading 30 home runs at the break - he's not alone.
Cody Bellinger has already hit 22 home runs in his rookie season. He leads the NL in home runs and during his hot stretch, he became the first rookie to ever hit 10 home runs in 10 games. Bellinger holds the record for the fastest player to ever hit 22 home runs.
The Dodgers' Cody Bellinger was cranking them out on the West Coast as well. Bellinger, called up in late April, has 25 homers and 58 RBI.
He, too, is another slugger that fans have marveled at.
"Three months ago, I couldn't imagine anything like this," Bellinger said.
The same can probably be said by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. His sport has two young, home-run hitting stars that play for storied franchises - one on the East Coast, one on the West. Even better, both are stars in the biggest markets.
"Aaron Judge has been absolutely phenomenal," Manfred said. "There is no other word to describe it. He is a tremendous talent on the field. A really appealing off-the-field personality, the kind of player that can become the face of the game."
Judge grinned when told of the high praise from the commish.
"It's pretty cool, but it's not my job to worry about that," he said.
And he's right.
All Judge has to do is keep hitting homers, winning games and pleasing the masses. All the rest will take care of itself.
The reason most in baseball believe he's the real deal after just a half of a rookie season isn't only about what he does, but the way others have responded to him, especially the Yankees.
Back in May, manager Joe Girardi mentioned Judge in the same sentence as Derek Jeter. Not about style of play, but demeanor and how he handles himself in all situations.
All MLB-leading 21 home runs from Aaron Judge. Still many more to come. Aaron Judge leads the AL in all the triple crown categories. Yes, I know Judge has hit 2 other home runs. I will be making a part 2 when he hits more.
Not long after that, the team made a section for him at Yankee Stadium, Judge's Chamber. Fans wear judge's robes and white wigs to cheer him on. It's something the Yankees never did before, not even for Jeter.
It speaks to what the organization thinks about the kid from Cali and his home run power.
Home runs are a magnate, a drug.
Check the TV ratings. The HR Derby broadcast was the highest-rated since 2009. In NYC, it was the highest-rated derby ever, recording a whopping 10.8.
Oh yes. Baseball is back - home runs and all. And it feels great.