The cool thing about Ryan Howard isn’t that he hits the longest home runs that anyone has ever seen. After all, that’s his job and a guy doing his job almost as well as anyone on the planet isn’t really a big deal. Is it? No, the cool thing about Ryan Howard is that he is on the doorstep from becoming one of the biggest stars in the game and he doesn’t know it. That isn’t to say Ryan is unaware, not interested or above such triviality and superficiality. Maybe he is. I don’t know – I don’t feel like getting into that deep. I’m sure I could, but that’s something for the people who write for Slate or Salon or some other navel-gazing type edifice of supposed intellectual discourse. Ryan doesn’t seem to know it because he’s unaffected. Maybe he is or isn’t above such things, but the he’s still the same old guy who likes hanging out with his teammates and playing baseball. And again, not that I’m a psychiatrist or anything like that, but Ryan seems to be pretty grounded – based on talks with baseball writers far smarter than me and observations at a few award presentations, Ryan’s parents seem to still have an important influence on him. In a way – but totally different – Ryan reminds me a bit of Scott Rolen, another Midwestern guy who placed his priorities on family, roots, friends and education. The rest was just what you did. And judging from last night’s made-for-TV home run hitting contest, Ryan Howard is pretty good at what he does. Etc. Here's Ryan's big homer to the third deck against the Yankees: Two in a row OK, this could be a cheap shot, but whatever. When a team wins just one World Championship in 123 seasons, facts aren’t cheap shots. They’re facts Anyway, two different Phillies have won the Home Run Derby in consecutive seasons… how come that’s the only thing they can win. Oh yes, it’s pretty cool and it’s good to see good guys and solid citizens like Bobby Abreu and Ryan Howard represent the Phillies and the city, but would it have really mattered if neither guy won? It’s the worst kept secret around that the balls used in the competition are a little “doctored.” Then again, it was cool watching those long shots land in the Allegheny River. And speaking of the Allegheny, how great does Pittsburgh’s downtown ballpark look? Wouldn’t it be great if the Phillies could build a ballpark along the banks of the Delaware or Schuylkill with the tall buildings in Center City hanging over the bowl? Oh wait… never mind. Home run Ramon For two years in a row, Phillies’ bullpen coach Ramon Henderson has been smacked around more than a cheap piñata. No not literally. Henderson, of course, pitched to both Bobby Abreu and Ryan Howard during their slugging runs in the Home Run Derby. Based on how well Abreu did in smacking a record 41 homers in Detroit in 2005, Red Sox David Ortiz asked Henderson to pitch to him, too. Apparently Henderson is a juggernaut at serving up titanic blasts because not only did both Abreu and Howard win the competition, but also Ortiz launched the longest bombs of the contest, including one that almost left the Earth’s atmosphere before settling down in the muddy Allegheny. Upon returning to Philadelphia after last season’s title run, Henderson was a bit of a celebrity in the Phils’ clubhouse. If he were able to parlay his home-run throwing talents into some sort of business, Henderson might be able to clean up. Either way, it’s obvious that Henderson is having a blast with all of this. Two straight trips to the All-Star Game with his young son with the best seat in the house for the Home Run Derby… not bad. Not bad at all. Note: Updates here will be even more sporadic than the past week. Currently I am in Estes Park, Colo. relaxing and trying to recharge my fried batteries for the rest of the year. There may be a chance of a post here or there, but nothing too significant… then again, here in Mountain Time and with the aid of MLB.tv; those west coast ballgames come on at a reasonable hour. Then again, the only sports I’m going to be interested in for the next 10 days are running, golf and chasing a high-energy 2-year old around the Rocky Mountains.