Big boppers ready to take their swings in Derby
Fielder seeks repeat of home run crown in Monday's main event
They'll be the home run kings of Queens, and their power presentation will shine at Citi Field.
The All-Star appetizer that is the Chevrolet Home Run Derby takes place on Monday night at 8 ET, with a national broadcast on ESPN. Prince Fielder -- a man who in both body and swing seems born for this very event -- will seek to defend his crown against a promising field selected by National League captain David Wright and American League captain Robinson Cano. That field is highlighted by the inclusion of Chris Davis, who tied an AL record on Sunday with his 37th homer before the break.
"I think as a power hitter growing up, [the Derby] is one of the things that you look at as your own kind of special thing about the All-Star Game," Davis said. "The fact that so much attention is paid to the Home Run Derby -- and there's so much hype around it -- for me, it's something that I'll look at as something I'd really like to do."
If the Mets put the Home Run Apple to use every time a guy goes deep, it's going to get one heck of a workout. And the good news for the men in the batter's box is that Citi Field is much better suited for this format than it was when it opened.
The Mets reconfigured the Citi Field dimensions before the 2012 season after it had profiled as one of the game's toughest places to go deep each of the previous two years. The result is a park that, while not a bandbox, has certainly been more fair and less frustrating for hitters, and the Derby field stands to benefit.
Then again, if you've watched some of these guys take BP, you know the exact depth of the dimensions might not matter much at all.
A quick look at those stepping into the box:
Fielder, Tigers: He's proven to be Missouri's main masher, having won the Derby in St. Louis in 2009 and in Kansas City last year. Can he take the crown in Queens? If he does, he'll become the Derby's second three-time winner, joining Ken Griffey Jr. Griffey and Fielder are the only players to win multiple Derby trophies.
"I just want to win to have my boys stand up there with me," Fielder said. "That's the only reason I like winning, so that they can experience it."
Wright, Mets: He'll get the loudest cheers of the night, naturally. He might be less likely to provide the biggest bashes. He averaged 29 homers his first four full seasons and 18 the following four (shifting to Citi Field in 2009 didn't help). But you never know what the home cooking might reap for Wright in his second Derby appearance.
Davis, Orioles: Given his sensational first half, Davis will be a popular pick to click in his first Derby. He is on pace for a 60-plus-homer season, which hasn't been done since 2001. People are going to be expecting a show from the burly Orioles first baseman.
Bryce Harper, Nationals: Hopefully, the left knee injury Harper has battled this season doesn't deter his ability in his first appearance in this event, because his raw power is a beautiful thing to behold. Harper hit a homer measured at 570 feet when he was a high school freshman, and he went deep 22 times in his rookie year.
Cano, Yankees: The AL captain is likely to find Citi Field a more welcoming place than Kauffman Stadium, where he was booed heartily last year for snubbing the Royals' Billy Butler. Cano's looking for a repeat of 2011, when he hit 32 homers at Chase Field, including 12 in the final round, to win the Derby.
Pedro Alvarez, Pirates: A replacement for the injured Carlos Gonzalez, Alvarez is a big swinger who, like Fielder, might find that the Derby is tailored to his talents. Alvarez already has 24 homers at the turn. So while he wasn't one of Wright's initial picks, he's certainly a worthy one.
Yoenis Cespedes, A's: Yasiel Puig might be the most captivating Cuban player in the big leagues at the moment, but Cespedes is no slouch himself, and he's been known to put on a show during BP.
Michael Cuddyer, Rockies: No question, Cuddyer was the most surprising selection for the 2013 Derby field, but he's no slap hitter. He was a sentimental pick on the part of Wright, who lauds Cuddyer as the guy who opened the door for other kids from the Virginia Beach area to get noticed by scouts. Wright also remembers Cuddyer's performance in a 2008 charity home run-hitting contest among Major Leaguers from the Virginia Beach area, where Cuddyer beat out Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Mark Reynolds and the Upton brothers, among others.
"I think he's one of the more underrated players in the game," Wright said, "and I'm glad he got the opportunity to step up and make the All-Star team. It was a pretty easy choice for me to take him to the Home Run Derby as well."
Each player will get 10 "outs" -- or, any swing that doesn't result in a home run -- per round, with the top four homer hitters moving on to the second round and the players with the two top combined totals for rounds one and two advancing to the finals.
And once again, the sluggers involved in the Derby will be going to bat for worthy causes, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and MLB's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program. More than $3 million has been raised for charity through the Derby the past 10 years, with an all-time high of $615,000 raised last year.
While the Derby title is an individual crown, a $150,000 donation will be made to a charity chosen by the winning team's captain and a $100,000 donation will be given to the BGCA in the name of the winning captain. A $25,000 donation will be given to the charity chosen by the captain of the losing team, and all remaining charity money raised will go to BGCA on behalf of Chevrolet and MLB.
The total amount of money distributed will be based on the number of homers hit. When a player gets to nine outs, the "Gold Ball" will be put in play, and for each Gold Ball homer, Chevrolet and MLB will donate $23,000 to charity. Chevrolet and MLB will combine to make an additional $3,000 donation for every non-Gold Ball homer hit.
All eight participants will also be paired with a youngster representing one of the eight local RBI leagues in the New York City area. The child paired with the Derby winner will earn $50,000 toward a baseball field makeover for that RBI league, and each of the other leagues will receive a $10,000 donation.
The Derby has also become social media savvy, and the hashtag #HRDerby will once again be heavily employed. And fans can download the official MLB.com Home Run Derby Game, featuring 24 sluggers from the 2010-12 Home Run Derby events. Connect and challenge gamers on the worldwide leaderboards. Available for free on the Apple App Store.