When the middle of the summer rolls around and it’s time for Major League Baseball to send its best players to the star-studded All-Star Game, one thing that always comes to mind is the annual celebration of the most exciting play in baseball; the Home Run Derby.
This year the Derby is featuring a new format that features 10 players getting seven outs per round, with the player hitting the most homers in the first round for each league automatically getting a bye to the third round. Additionally, the Derby will have bracketed play for the players making it out of the first round.
South Florida fans will have one of their own to root for as Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton will represent the National League team captained by Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista will captain the American League squad.
Stanton will be the first Marlins Home Run Derby competitor since 2010 when Hanley Ramirez was defeated by David Ortiz in the Derby finals. Other past Marlins Derby representatives include Miguel Cabrera, Dan Uggla and Gary Sheffield.
With the 2014 Home Run Derby coming up on July 14, let’s take a look back at some of the best Derby moments from over the years and see which ones have stood the test of time.
2008- Josh Hamilton Shatters Records
When it comes to someone putting on a show for the fans, Josh Hamilton’s powerful display during the 2008 Home Run Derby at old Yankee Stadium takes the cake. Hamilton hit 28 home runs in the first round alone, taking 13 consecutive pitches and sending them into the crowd at one point.
Hamilton finished with a total of 35 home runs but hit only three in the finals. Justin Morneau took home the crown with five homers in the finals but finished with just 22 total homers in the Derby. While it’s good enough for second-most that year, nothing compares to the display of dingers showcased by Hamilton.
2002- Sammy Sosa Packs a Powerful Punch
The only thing better than a home run is a long home run. During the 2002 Home Run Derby in Milwaukee, Sammy Sosa’s strength brought fans to their feet as he hit five separate home runs that traveled over 500 feet with the longest landing 524 feet from home plate.
Sosa’s 12 first round homers traveled an estimated 5,719 feet, two of which completely left Miller Park. Like Hamilton in ’08, Sosa’s effort didn’t result in a Derby victory. Jason Giambi’s seven home runs in the finals were enough to capture the win but it was Sosa that was the talk of the town after his mammoth homers.
2005- Record Setting Day For Bobby Abreu
Bobby Abreu channeled his inner-Superman during the 2005 Home Run Derby in Detroit. He started it off by hitting 24 homers in the first round, an opening round record at the time. That was followed up by a somewhat mediocre six home runs in the second round, but the 30-homer total was more than enough to set a new Derby record, breaking the previous record of 27 set the year before by Miguel Tejada.
Unlike most players who hit a ton of homers in the first round and fizzle out by the time they reach the finals, Abreu ramped up his performance by parking another 11 in the final round against Ivan Rodriguez to win the Derby. In an emotional scene, fellow countrymen Miguel Cabrera, Melvin Mora and Cesar Izturis wrapped a Venezuelan flag around Abreu as the ’05 Derby had the participants representing their respective nations for the first time.
1996- Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds Try To One-Up Each Other
A couple of power hitters who had record-breaking home run seasons still ahead of them, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire treated fans more drama then usual during the ’96 Home Run Derby at old Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.
After getting out of the first round with four home runs apiece, Bonds knocked 10 out of the park while McGwire was right behind him with nine of his own as both reached the finals. Neither put on a big-time show in the final round but the best was certainly saved for last. After McGwire finished his final round with two home runs, Bonds used up all but one of his outs without parking a single dinger. With just one out remaining, Bonds hit back-to-back-to-back home runs to win the Derby in very dramatic fashion.
2011- Robinson Cano and His Dad Put On Quite the Show
In 2011 we were treated to Home Run Derby that seemed to have it all. One of the most touching and special father-son moments you could ask for at a baseball game (or Home Run Derby in this case) occurred when Robinson Cano had his father Jose pitch to him during the Derby. Combine that with the greatest rivalry in baseball, Yankees-Red Sox, going head to head in the final and this might as well be called the total package Derby.
Cano and Adrian Gonzalez were the top hitters in the Derby from start to finish, hitting eight and nine in the first round, respectively. Cano led the way in the second round with 12 homers while Gonzalez was right behind him with 11. Then came the finals.
Gonzalez started things off by hitting 11 home runs in his finals appearance, tying a Derby finals record. Cano had the last at-bat and showed that one trait he and his father shared was a flare for the dramatic. Jose put the balls exactly where his son wanted them and Cano got hot at the right time, hitting his walk-off Derby shot with four of his outs remaining.
Few things can beat a walk-off moment but when Cano and his father shared an emotional embrace after the final home run was hit, it was a moment that every father, baseball fan or not, had to appreciate and cherish.
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