Over the past decade, the MLB Home Run Derby, which is held the night before the All-Star Game, has become a main event, with players like Josh Hamilton, Todd Frazier, Prince Fielder, and Giancarlo Stanton stealing the show. Now you can add Yankees phenom Aaron Judge to that list, as he put on a show in the 2017 edition Monday night at Marlins Park.
Judge went yard 47 times on his way to becoming the champion. The rookie was nearly knocked out in the first round when Marlins first baseman Justin Bour hit 22 homers. Judge responded by smashing 23, and he set the tone for the rest of the night.
“I was definitely nervous going into it; I think everyone was a little nervous,” Judge said. “With Justin Bour putting on a show like that, I just had to go to work.”
The 6’7”, 280-pound Yankees outfielder continued to show off his power in the semifinals. Going up against fellow rookie sensation Cody Bellinger, Judge hit three home runs that went more than 500 feet. He didn’t even need bonus time to oust Bellinger, and he advanced to the final round thanks to a 507-foot shot.
After Bellinger, Judge was set to take on Twins third baseman Miguel Sano in the final round. Sano was clearly fatigued, as he hit just two home runs before calling a timeout. He would hit eight more dingers to finish with 10, but that was no match for Judge. Judge easily defeated Sano, hitting 11 homers without using bonus time.
Many people anticipated that Judge would face Stanton, the defending champion, in the final round. But that was not the case, as he fell one home run short of tying Gary Sanchez, who had 17 homers. “I honestly wasn’t even thinking about it; I was just trying to get out of the first round,” Judge said when asked if he was disappointed to not face Stanton.
Despite losing, Stanton still put on a show in front of the home crowd: One home run traveled 496 feet, and some of his shots sailed over the sculpture in centerfield.
Once Stanton was eliminated, all the attention was on Bour, who pumped up the crowd with his electrifying performance. However, once Judge hit 23 homers, the night belonged to him.
Hitters had to mash as many home runs as they could in four minutes. With a time limit, players can get fatigued very easily, but they do have one timeout. “Those timeouts were huge,” Judge said. “Especially in the first round, I think I hit seven in a minute-and-a-half, and I was scuffling a bit. So, I talked to [Dellin] Betances, Starlin [Castro], and [Luis] Severino, and I told them, ‘When you start seeing me get out of control, wave your arms and tell me to call timeout.’ Because when you’re in the box, you’re locked in and you forget about that timeout. So I looked at those guys on the sidelines and they helped me out.”
Judge leads all players with 30 home runs at the break, and he became just the third person to win the Derby while leading the majors in home runs. This was Judge’s first Home Run Derby, and considering how dominant he was, it most certainly won’t be his last.
Photograph by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images