Rookies Turn MLB Home Run Derby into Most Thrilling in Recent Memory


Baseball fans got a look at the future of the game Monday night as two rookies, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and the New York Mets’ Pete Alonso, put on a show for the ages in the Home Run Derby at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

Alonso won it, but Guerrero stole the show. The 20-year-old Guerrero, son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero Sr., hit a record 29 bombs in the first round, breaking the mark set by the Texas Rangers’ Josh Hamilton in 2008.

But Guerrero was just getting started.

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In the second round, he faced off against the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Joc Pederson with the winner advancing to the finals. Pederson and Guerrero hooked up in an epic battle that had to go into three rounds of extra swings to be decided. Ultimately, Guerrero beat Pederson 40-39.

Pederson and Guerrero each hit a record-tying 29 home runs in the regulation period — four minutes plus a 30-second bonus for each — which meant they had to go to extra time.

In the one minute extra time period, they each hit eight more, which tied them at 37 apiece.

So they then went to a three-swing swing-off, which, yes, ended up in a tie, 1-1. They each had 38 home runs at that point.

The sluggers then went to a second three-swing swing-off, and this time, Guerrero hit two out of three out of the park while Pederson had just one. Final score: Guerrero 40, Pederson 39.

On the other side of the bracket, Alonso saved his best for last. He barely beat the Cleveland Indians’ Carlos Santana in the first round, 14-13, then outlasted the Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuna 20-19 in the second round to advance to the finals.

In the final round, Alonso blasted 23 to Guerrero’s 22 to win it.

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“That was a blast. Oh my God, that was a blast,” Alonso said after winning the derby. “I’m going to remember that for the rest of my life … This means so much.”

For his efforts, the 24-year-old won the $1 million prize — and promptly announced he was donating a chunk of that to military veterans and first responders.

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“I’m just so happy I can donate some of this money … I want to donate 5 percent to the Wounded Warriors and 5 percent to Tunnel to Towers. I have the utmost respect for people who put their lives on the line every single day and I just wanted to show my gratitude,” Alonso, who is second in the majors with 30 home runs and third in RBIs with 68, said. “A bad day for me is a lot different than a bad day for the service men and women that serve this country.”

All in all, 312 home runs were hit, which is a record, reported. Guerrero alone had 91, which is by far the most ever in a Home Run Derby, eclipsing the 61 Giancarlo Stanton hit in 2016.

Also, Guerrero had the longest homer of the night at 488 feet. In fact, reported, he had three of the five longest home runs with blasts of 488, 476 and 472 feet. The Oakland A’s Matt Chapman had the other two at 477 and 473 feet.

It was a blast to watch, but it won’t do anything to quell the speculation from people like Houston Astros ace and All-Star game starter Justin Verlander, who told ESPN Monday that he thinks the league is juicing baseball’s to promote more offense.

“It’s a f—ing joke,” Verlander said. “Major League Baseball’s turning this game into a joke.”

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Dave is a lifelong sports fan who has been writing for The Wildcard since 2017. He has been a writer for more than 20 years for a variety of publications.
Dave has been writing about sports for The Wildcard since 2017. He's been a reporter and editor for over 20 years, covering everything from sports to financial news. In addition to writing for The Wildcard, Dave has covered mutual funds for Pensions and Investments, meetings and conventions, money market funds, personal finance, associations, and he currently covers financial regulations and the energy sector for Macallan Communications. He has won awards for both news and sports reporting.
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