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The MLB Home Run Derby has always been a favorite of mine.  I am not sure if baseball fans share my love for the event, but I don’t really care because I genuinely enjoy it.  Maybe it is because I grew up during some of the best derbies in baseball history or because my buddies and I played maybe a million home run competitions when I was a kid.  Either way, I was excited for this year’s home run tournament.  For the record I do really like the timed tournament format.  I think it makes things more exciting. 

Photo courtesy of nytimes.com

My favorite Home Run Derby of all time is none other than the 1999 Derby (until last night) that took place at friendly Fenway Park.  I think it is time for the all-star festivities to make its way back to the historic ballpark, but I will save that rant for another time.  Fenway is a perfect venue to showcase baseball’s most elite power hitters.  Especially with all the upgrades and renovations that have taken place since 1999.  Boston’s green monster was built to be a part of the home run derby.  There is nothing like the monster in any baseball stadium.  Especially after the Miami Marlins organization removed that flipping fish statue thing.  Just watching home runs fly over the humongous green wall is worth the price of admission, and on that night in July of 1999 home runs in droves.  Nothing like last night however, but still a ton of bombs. 

Of course, there was no shortage of power hitters participating in the contest, but the National League in particular sent their big-time boppers to Boston.  Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker and Big Mac himself, Mark McGwire were all at Fenway that night.  I mean, the American League wasn’t bad either.  Ken Griffey Jr, Jeff Bagwell and hometown favorite Nomar Garciaparra all competed. 

Not all these home run hitters would have good performances.  Sammy Sosa didn’t hit many balls out of the park in Round 1 so he didn’t advance.  Matter of fact, he only hit 1 single home run.  Nomar, well he didn’t do much to excite the Fenway faithful in attendance.  Garciaparra hit only 2 measly dingers.  But that was a better showing than he had in 1997 when he didn’t hit a single long ball in that competition.  That was the last time the All-Star events took place in Cleveland.  Until last night anyway. 

Mark McGwire’s first round was nothing less than spectacular.  Big Mac hit 13 homers that were anything but cheap.  At that point 13 was the most home runs hit in a single round in MLB Home Run Derby history.  Remember this was before the seats were atop the monster.  It was just the net behind the big wall so almost every home run went completely out of the stadium.  Time after time, the ball would just sail over the green monster and into the night.  He even came close to caving in a few windshields of the cars that passed by on the Mass Pike.  McGwire didn’t win the Derby, but he did put on a show at the height of his fame. 

The winner of the 1999 Home Run Derby was Ken Griffey Jr.  “The Kid” was everyone’s favorite player when I was a kid, including me.  As a huge fan of baseball, watching Junior was like watching MJ.  He had the swing, the backwards hat swag and he was a Derby champ already.  He had everything needed to be a star.  Griffey Jr’s first round wasn’t great, but it was good enough to get him into the second round.  Round number 2 is where his skill was on full display.   

2019 MLB All-Star Gear at MLBshop.comThe Mariner’s outfielder bashed home runs all over Fenway.  He hit 10 out of the park.  Griffey routinely hit them over the bullpen in right field, which is not easy to do.  His great second round was highlighted by an absolute missile that crashed into the back wall in center field.  You don’t see balls hit like that often.  Ken Griffey went onto the final round and was able to win the entire tournament.  Watching Griffey back in 1999 was amazing. 

Last night’s Home Run Derby was a ton of fun.  I really liked the split screen because I like checking out their swings BUT I also want to see how far the ball went.  Well…problem solved, thanks ESPN.  Some of the game’s most talented hitters showcased their pop in Cleveland and they definitely delivered.  More dingers were hit in last night’s event than ever before.  If they used super juiced balls…good, it made the Derby so exciting.  That is why I watch the Home Run Derby. 

Vladimir Guerrero Jr hit more home runs than ever before.  He hit 91 total home runs.  Some of them were absolute bombs too.  At one point I think he peppered the big screen deep in left field with two or three times in a row.  Just like his dad did years ago, he put on an absolute show.  I have to be honest, I didn’t know if Guerrero Jr had the gas tank to hit that many home runs in every round he participated in.  Vladito didn’t win the competition, but I think it is safe to say he won the night. 

Joc Pederson was my pick to win the whole thing because I thought lefties would have a slight advantage in Cleveland’s ball park and he just has that perfect derby swing.  Pederson had a great showing just like he did in Cincinnati’s Derby, and I think he would have contended for the trophy if it wasn’t for Guerrero Jr.  The two faced off in a round that will be remembered forever.  It was insane.  It felt like a million homers were hit in that round alone.  They battled through three types of overtime but ultimately Pederson was bested.  It stunk to lose my champ a round early but what a show! I tip my cap to you two.  I always enjoy watching Joc Pederson’s sweet lefty swing.  I don’t know what it is about lefty swings but they just look so good in a home run hitting competition. 

Ronald Acuna Jr displayed power to all parts of the field.  He was very impressive.  His home run swing seemed so effortless.  Players don’t usually hit home runs hit all over the place like that in these competitions.  Ron would take 3 swings and hit a home run to left, center, and right.  Acuna’s home runs tallied a total distance of 2 miles in round 1 alone! WOW, that is what I call power.  Acuna is a budding superstar and participating in last night’s derby hopefully just continued his rise to stardom. 

Speaking of displaying power to all parts of the ball park, Pete Alonso was crowned the champion.  Alonso hit 57 total home runs (which were just about half as much as Guerrero) but he was victorious in every round.  He didn’t need a swing off nor did he even use his 30 second bonus round.  Alonso’s power is obvious.  He is a big guy that can hit the ball a mile and he did that last night.  Honestly he probably would have hit more if his cousin pitched better.  Congrats to the Polar Bear for winning the 2019 MLB Home Run Derby and taking home that one million dollar prize.

Overall I think that the Derby was fun, exciting, and absolutely delivered.  Fans were able to watch a billion home runs by some of the best power bats in the world.  I can’t wait to see what Los Angeles has to offer the event next year. 


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