Slugger Yoenis Cespedes did not get enough votes to make the All-Star Game, but he made the most of an invitation to compete in the Home Run Derby by winning the competition on the eve of the Midsummer Classic on Monday.
The Oakland outfielder smashed 17 home runs in the first round to steal the show and in the final round topped the eight homers slugged by Washington’s Bryce Harper with a ninth bomb that traveled 455 feet into the black backdrop in center field.
Cespedes, the last man added to the American League derby lineup by captain Robinson Cano, won a silver trophy and a red pick-up truck, and was handed an oversized check representing US$529,000 raised for charity by the homer hitters.
The 27-year-old’s win vindicated Cano’s decision to pick Cespedes, who has 15 home runs this season.
“I said: ‘Let me choose somebody that’s not in the All-Star [Game] so he can get an opportunity to be here,’” Cano told reporters earlier in the day. “He accepted.”
Despite the spacious dimensions of Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, the sluggers put on a long-ball show on a hot, sultry night for a sellout crowd of more than 43,000.
In addition to the home run contest, the fans were also treated to a dance routine by the Rockettes on top of the team dugouts, a parade of team mascots and a power display by a pair of high-school sluggers wielding aluminum bats.
Of his 17 home runs in the first round, Cespedes had blasts of 456 and 447 feet to dead center, hit four balls into the distant third deck in left — never reached in official games — and another off the facing of the deck.
Joining Cespedes, who is in his second season in the major leagues after defecting from Cuba, in the second round were Harper, with eight home runs, Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles (eight) and Mike Cuddyer of the Colorado Rockies (seven).
Pedro Alvarez of the Pittsburgh Pirates (six), Prince Fielder of the Detroit Tigers (five), National League captain David Wright of the Mets (five) and Cano (four) were eliminated.
Fielder, who won the event last year, fell short in his attempt to join Ken Griffey Jr as the only three-time winner of the event.
Harper, who had his father pitch to him, hit eight more home runs in the second round to pass Cuddyer (15l) and current major league home run leader Davis, who finished with just 12 roundtrippers and later revealed that he had popped a blister during the second round.
Cespedes, feasting on the offerings of his Oakland third-base coach Mike Gallego, added another six home runs for a total of 23, although he already had enough to advance to the final.
The power display continued even though the 20-year-old Harper, who wore a sparkling set of gold splashed spikes with orange shoe laces, set a solid target of eight that included a massive 471-foot shot.