Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder is the second player in Major League Baseball history to wear the Home Run Derby crown twice. And he did it in fine style.
Fielder is not only the second Derby king to recapture the honor; he is also the first to win it representing both the American and National Leagues. The 28-year-old Tigers star previously won the title in 2009 as a Milwaukee Brewer.
The Sporting News’ Stan McNeal reports, “Fielder joined three-time winner Ken Griffey Jr. as the only players with multiple Derby titles since the contest became part of All-Star festivities in 1985.”
Prince's deep respect and admiration for one of the game’s greatest, the man with whom he shares the multiple-Derby distinction, highlighted his post-victory, media comments. As Sports Illustrated confirms, the long-ball champ said proudly, “‘Just being mentioned with [“The Kid”] is real special.’”
The venerable sporting authority also documents that the gen-x home run hero was an occasional guest at Griffey’s home as a child. Fielder said, “My dad [Detroit Tigers superstar Cecil] would let me go over and play video games all day. [Griffey] always took care of me when I was a kid.”
In a contest lasting 2 hours and 58 minutes (DVR time), the megastar slugger defeated Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista by a tally of 12 homers to 7 in the finals. Bautista hit 11 to lead the field after the first but couldn’t get it done in the money round; Toronto’s slugging-percentage madman managed only 7.
“‘I’m a little disappointed,” Bautista told reporters. “‘I’m capable of doing more.’” This is marked modesty for a man—as ESPN’s most-tenured anchor Chris Berman reminded viewers—who is the only player in history to lead the majors in long balls at the all-star break for three consecutive years.
Sports Illustrated’s Joe Lemire reports that Bautista—conjuring images of celebrated actor-comedian Will Ferrell’s brilliant turn in 2006’s Talladega Nights—succinctly, lightheartedly summarized his thoughts on last night’s defeat with Ferrell’s and writer-director Adam McKay’s infamously oft-quoted gem, “‘If you’re not first, you’re last.’”
The Tiger who bested Bautista launched a total of 8 dingers that exploded in Kansas City’s rarefied stratosphere and splashed down hot into Kauffman Stadium’s signature, right-field fountains—each missile landing farther than 425 feet from home plate.
Over the Derby’s three rounds, Fielder rocketed 28 bombs all told, brilliantly highlighting baseball's power-pumped, All-Star eve. The two-time champion consummated last evening’s finest round when he belted 12 in the final to tie the championship-round record set last year by New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano.
Cano, the American League captain, also competed and was overwhelmingly greeted by a loud and lengthy chorus of hometown boos during player introductions, a clear manifestation of the city-wide uproar over his slightly unpopular decision not to tap Royals slugger Billy Butler for the A.L. squad. Though the Yankees Cano, pride of the Big Apple and his native Dominican Republic, was last season’s winner, he didn’t factor this time around, failing to register a single big-fly.
The Sporting News reports, “Cano did not arrive in Kansas City until after 4 a.m. CT Monday.” Fatigue may have affected the former champ, and his statement to reporters after the contest leads to the conclusion it wasn’t the negative fan reaction that kept him from scoring. Cano said, “‘I was criticized before I got here. If you play for the Yankees you get booed everywhere you go.’”
Conversely, Los Angeles Angels’ slugging wunderkind Mark Trumbo continually impressed the Kansas City crowd, booming several blasts more than 450 feet, including the most prodigious of the night, a 490-foot behemoth.
As for last night’s victor, he is well on his way to legendary status as an undisputed home-run hero. The Detroit Tigers confirm Fielder's hit 245 dingers in his 7.5 seasons in the majors. His father, a roundly respected bomber in his own right, hit 319 in 13 years, according to Major League Baseball.
At his current pace, Prince will not only eclipse his father’s mark, but he may also distinguish himself as a member of the rare pantheon of—currently, eight—players to reach the high-water mark of 600+ career homers.
Fielder won his first Home Run Derby in St. Louis, his second in Kansas City. When asked by ESPN moments after hoisting the trophy what it was about Missouri that prompted these remarkable performances, he smiled wide. After a brief pause, he said simply, “I guess it’s the great fans here.”
The champion's savvy response elicited mass cacophonous gratitude from K.C.'s nearly 27,000 All Star attendees—undoubtedly the loudest eruption of the night.