Thanks to Juan Soto and Pete Alonso, the Latinos grabbed the headlines at Home Run Derby in Denver Monday night.
Soto, 22, the Venezuelan rightfielder of the Washington Nationals, had the longest shot of the night – a 520-foot blast apparently helped by the mile-high elevation of Coors Field.
But Alonso, star first baseman for the New York Mets, won the night with 74 long balls, outlasting such competition as Trey Mancini of the Baltimore Orioles, Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels, and Sal Perez of the Kansas City Royals.
Alonso’s paternal grandfather, Peter Conrad Alonso, left his Barcelona birthplace during the Spanish Civil War and came to Queens, New York, home of the Mets since 1962. The family later moved to Tampa, where Pete Alonso was raised.
For Alonso, who is not on the National League’s All-Star roster, the Home Run Derby win was his second in a row.
He joins Ken Griffey, Jr. and Yoenis Cespedes as the only players to win successive derbies.
“I think I’m the best power hitter on the planet,” Alonso said afterward. “Being able to showcase that and really put on a fun display for fans, it’s truly a dream come true for me. When I was younger, my parents actually let me stay up past my bedtime to watch this.”
In 2019, the best year of his brief career, Alonso hit 53 home runs, a record for a freshman, and won National League Rookie of the Year honors over Atlanta pitcher Mike Soroka.
He endured a sophomore slump during the virus-shortened 2020 campaign but is showing signs of returning to his rookie form.
Mets manager Luis Rojas has so much confidence in Alonso that he moved Dom Smith, a better first baseman defensively, to left field so that both men could play every day. The move paid off, as Alonso leads the Mets with 17 home runs.
Alonso, whose longest Home Run Derby clout went 514 feet into the Colorado twilight, beat out Ohtani, Mancini, and Soto to claim his title. He edged Mancini, 23-22, in the final round.
Originally the No. 5 seed in the eight-man field, Alonso had no shortage of confidence.
“There was no point where I thought I was going to lose – ever,” the right-handed hitter told media members afterward . “When the seedings came out, teammates came up to me and said, ‘That’s disrespectful. You’re defending your title; what guy that’s defending their title is a fifth seed? Nobody. Aren’t you pissed about that?’ I said, ‘No. I’m going to win anyway. It doesn’t matter.’”
In true Coors Field fashion, there were 15 homers of more than 500 feet on Monday, as measured by Statcast. From 2016-19, there were a total of four homers that cracked 500 feet, all by Aaron Judge of the Yankees in 2017.
Ohtani currently leads Major League Baseball with 33 home runs – but will be the starting pitcher for the American League in the Coors Field contest Tuesday night. No other pitcher has ever been a Home Run Derby contestant.
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