The main event of All-Star Monday was the Home Run Derby. And more on that in a bit. But there was a lot more happening around Petco Park and FanFest than the annual homer contest.
My first stop of the day was to the Topps booth at FanFest. The trading card company was promoting its baseball card app, Bunt, with a special appearance by New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard (aka Thor). Syndergaard spent some time signing digital cards for a crowd of kids, and he took some time to answer a few questions from SI Kids. Thor said he never collected baseball cards as a kid, but he thought that the technology behind Bunt and trading digital cards was really a cool thing. He also let us know the key to becoming a pitcher like him. “Locate your fast ball,” he said.
Next on the agenda was the MLB press conference where the starting lineups for Tuesday’s All-Star Game were announced. Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto was selected as the National League’s starting pitcher NL and Mets manager Terry Collins. American League manager and Kansas City Royals skipper Ned Yost chose Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Sale as his team’s starter.
After the lineups were announced, a Q&A session followed and then players were available for one-on-one interviews with members of the media.
“Being around some of the best in baseball, that’s always your mission and your dream to come out here and enjoy that with them,” Washington Nationals superstar Bryce Harper said. “It’s always a lot of fun.”
“It’s fun,” Corey Seager agreed. The Los Angeles Dodgers rookie is playing in his first All-Star Game and competing in his first Home Run Derby. “There are some nerves to go with it too, so I have to calm that down a little bit. But I’m just trying to soak up as much as I can and enjoy it."
Finally, we get to the Home Run Derby. It began with fireworks, an Air Force flyby, and 12-time All-Star and Hall of Famer Dave Winfield throwing out the first pitch. Then the rules of the contest were announced, from the head-to-head bracket format to how players can get bonus time. (Hit two bombs more than 440 feet to get an extra 30 seconds. No big deal.)
Seager started things off with a bang. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ rookie sensation hit 15 home runs. But Mark Trumbo of the Baltimore Orioles beat him out with 16 after taking a time out and hitting eight straight dingers in a row.
Next up was Seattle Mariners slugger and 2011 Derby champ Robinson Cano versus Miami Marlins power hitter Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton hit first and he completely crushed it, hitting 24 home runs. A whopping 4 of them traveled more than 440 feet, including a 497-foot blast. Stanton easily defeated Cano, who ended up only with seven long balls.
In the next matchup, hometown Padre Will Myers hit 10 home runs, while Adam Duvall of the Cincinnati Reds hit 11.The opening round ended when defending champ Todd Frazier of the White Sox slugged 13 jacks to defeat the Colorado Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez and his 12 homers.
In the semifinals, Stanton smashed 17 home runs (14 going further than 440 feet) to top Trumbo, while Frazier earned a return trip to the final round by hitting 16 homers to Duvall’s 15.
But the Derby king’s reign ended in the finals. Stanton demolished 20 homers — Frazier only hit 13 — to win the 2016 Home Run Derby trophy. It was a historic tournament: Stanton is the first Marlin to ever win a Home Run Derby, while he hit a total of 61 home runs, a new record.
Stanton’s Home Run Derby performance was the ultimate capper to a great All-Star Game Eve. Can’t wait to see how things wrap up tonight at the big game!
Photos: Max Ferregur