Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
There were plenty of storylines in the 2022 MLB Home Run Derby. There was a 21-year-old rookie sensation in Julio Rodriguez, the wily veteran in Albert Pujols, and Pete Alonso looking to three-peat, which has never been done before. Cleveland fans were also interested as Jose Ramirez was making his first appearance.
The competition started off with a bang, as Ronald Acuna Jr. almost got set on fire by the shooting flames on stage as the matchup between Jose and Juan Soto was announced.
Rodriguez took the nation by storm, hitting 32 homers in round one with Ken Griffey Jr off in the distance taking photos of him. It felt like Corey Seager was eliminated before he could even get to the plate. With his Dad pitching to him, he ended with 24 homers.
On the other side of the bracket, Jose took on Juan Soto. In a shocking turn of events, Jose ended up hitting from the right side of the plate. This could be due to comfortability, or the fact the ball carries better to left field at Dodger Stadium. The hope was that Soto would be distracted with all the recent trade buzz surrounding him, but that hope quickly dwindled.
Jose only hit 17 dingers as teammates Andres Gimenez and Emmanual Clase stood close by in support. Soto was able to surpass Jose’s total as his time winded down. Jose had a respectable round, and most importantly, he was not injured. As long as he had fun, and stayed healthy, I was going to be happy.
The legend Pujols drew the National League home run leader, Kyle Schrawber, in round one. Many people considered this a “first round bye” for Schwarber. Pujols ended with 13 homers, and all of the All-Stars surrounded him as the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Surely, that would not be enough to advance, right? Wrong.
Schrawber ended up tying Pujols, leading to the tie breaker. Pujols had to send someone to retrieve his batting gloves he had given away, and in an epic performance, he beat Schwarber 20-18.
In the final four, Rodriguez started it off with Pete Alonso meditating beneath Dodger Stadium. Alonso took the event way more seriously than any of the other competitors. Julio calmly hit 31 homeruns. Through two rounds, the Seattle Mainer hit 63 total homers, which surpassed Ken Griffey Jr. for most career homeruns by a Mariner at the Home Run Derby. This was also the third most total homeruns ever through two rounds, and Julio was also the first ever to hit multiple 30 homerun rounds in a single derby. This performance was enough to knock out two time defending champion Alonso. The 3-peat was not meant to be for the Polar Bear.
Soto vs. surprise winner Pujols was the other final four matchup. The OG vs. the young blood. This almost had the feel of a changing of the guard. Pujols put up a good fight, as Soto needed every second of his time to advance to the finals vs. Julio.
Two of the best young stars in the game were going head-to-head to take home the trophy. Julio showed the first signs of being gassed, as he started the final round with 18 round trippers. Soto got hot heading into his timeout, hitting 10. Soto sat at 15 heading into his minute of bonus time and ended up winning 19-18 with a walkoff bat flip, joking that he “won a championship for Washington”. This victory eliminated Julio’s chance to be the defending champion with the 2023 All-Star Game set to be played at his home stadium in Seattle.
Baseball did it right this year. They marketed their young superstars for maybe the first time ever. They also included the legacy selection in Pujols in his final season to get the older fans interested. This is the type of marketing Major League Baseball needs to continue with to put the sport back on the map.
The game is in good hands moving forward. The only complaint I had is the final was played in daylight with the game being in LA. The final round of the Home Run Derby is just meant to be played under the lights. Other than that, Los Angeles did not disappoint.
Now, we sit back to see what fireworks the All-Star game brings. In a recent plot twist, if the game is tied after nine innings, a Home Run Derby will be used to determine the winner. Sit back, grab your popcorn, and hope for chaos. This could be an All-Star game for the ages.
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