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ANAHEIM, CA – JUNE 20: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels watches as the ball clears the wall on a two-run home run in the fifth inning of the game against the Detroit Tigers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 20, 2021 in Anaheim, California.
(Photo : Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
We’re just a couple of weeks away from the 2021 Home Run Derby and excitement is definitely building for Major League Baseball’s showpiece event. This year’s protagonists are still not complete but the tournament already got some major commitments with New York Mets star Pete Alonso and Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani confirming their participation this coming July 12 at the Coors Field.
Alonso confirms title defense
Alonso arrives at this event as the defending champion with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the Home Run Derby’s cancellation last year. The Mets first baseman put on a show back in 2019, outslugging Toronto Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 23-22, in the final round to capture the Derby crown at the Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.
Alonso has struggled with his home run swing thus far this season, hitting just 11 long balls this campaign. Overall this season, Alonso is batting .250 with a .782 OPS in 59 games played for the Mets. He will take comfort in the fact, however, that this year’s Home Run Derby will take place at the Coors Field. He’s fond of the Colorado Rockies’ home stadium, blasting three home runs in six career games there.
A victory for Alonso will put the 26-year-old star in some elite company. Only three players have won the Home Run Derby at least twice before, namely: Ken Griffey Jr. (1994, ’98 and ’99), Prince Fielder (2009, ’12), and Yoenis Céspedes who won back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014.
Alonso will make one change to his Derby campaign, though, with Mets bench coach Dave Jauss the one pitching to him this time rather than his cousin, Derek Morgan, who threw to him a couple of years ago in Cleveland. Jauss regularly throws batting practice to New York hitters before matches.
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Ohtani gunning for history
However, Alonso will have his work cut out for him in his title defense as he will have to take down Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani. The two-way star became the first player to commit in next month’s Home Run Derby, announcing his participation last Friday.
Ohtani is making history with his inclusion in the Home Run Derby as he will be the first Japanese-born player to participate in this tournament. Ohtani will also be the first player to join this event after making at least one pitching start.
Ohtani has surprised many this season with his outstanding play on both the mound and at the plate. He’s 3-1 with a 2.58 ERA in 11 starts with the Angels. Ohtani’s hitting ,though, is even more impressive, as he is currently second in the home runs department with 23 long balls hit this season.
Ohtani is not just hitting homers, though, he is driving out bombs. The Japanese star has hit 11 home runs that have traveled at least 425 feet, more than any other player in the majors this season.
Unfortunately for baseball fans, the home run leader for this season declined to participate in this year’s Derby. Guerrero, who already has 24 homers this campaign, has decided to sit out this season’s Home Run Derby, an event he so nearly won two years ago.
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