KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Earlier in the day, Milwaukee Brewers all-star Ryan Braun was asked how he thought former teammate Prince Fielder would fare in the Home Run Derby.
“Anytime there’s a Home Run Derby and Prince Fielder is in it, I think he’s got to be the favorite,” said Braun. “He’s one of the few guys who doesn’t have to change his swing at all.”
Braun’s comments proved prescient when Detroit’s Fielder vanquished Toronto’s Jose Bautista, 12-7, in the finals Monday night at Kauffman Stadium to claim his second All-Star Home Run Derby crown. Fielder also won in 2009 down the road in St. Louis while representing the Brewers.
Only Ken Griffey Jr. has more Derby trophies with three titles in the ’90s.
“That means a lot to be mentioned with Ken,” said Fielder, who said Griffey was one of his favorites growing up. “It’s fun. I had a blast.”
As usual, Fielder had sons Jadyn and Haven on the podium with him and it was noted he now has a trophy for each.
“They can stop fighting over it now,” Fielder joked. “It’s a lot of fun because they’re on the field with me. If I’m invited, I’ll keep coming.”
Even Jadyn was asked a question: Why did he say beforehand that his dad would win the Derby?
“Because he’s the best player ever,” replied Jadyn, breaking up the assembled media with laughter.
Kauffman Stadium is hardly a hitter’s paradise so it was no real shock that many of the contestants struggled to post big numbers when the first round began. Bautista, the AL co-leader with 27 homers, led that opening round with 11 homers.
The Los Angeles Angels’ strapping Mark Trumbo hit some of the biggest bombs in that round and finished with seven homers, as did St. Louis’ Carlos Beltran, who opened the competition. Fielder slipped in as the fourth semifinalist by hitting five homers, a low total for the Detroit slugger.
Los Angeles Dodgers centerfielder Matt Kemp, who withdrew from the All-Star Game because he missed much of the first half with a hamstring injury, probably wished he sat out the Derby as well. The NL captain made nine outs before finally hitting one out and had to settle for that.
But it was AL captain Robinson Cano, the defending champion, who had the most miserable time. Because Cano didn’t pick Kansas City’s Billy Butler to participate, he was loudly booed by Royals fans as he stepped to the plate and cheered each time he made an out.
Cano, who said earlier in the day he got only a couple of hours of sleep after playing a Sunday night game in Boston, thrilled the local fans by making 10 outs without hitting even one out of the park. So, the two captains combined for one homer in that round.
Fielder picked up the pace considerably while leading off Round 2, socking 11 homers for a cumulative total of 16. Beltran stepped up next and whacked five out to give him 12 through two rounds.
Trumbo was next and continued launching long-range missiles, hitting three in a row at one point that each exceeded 440 feet. It’s the total, not the distance, that counts in moving forward, however, and Trumbo hit only six that round to give him 13 through Round 2.
Bautista, the first-round leader, also struggled, however, hitting just two more out to also total 13. That tie prompted a “swing off” between Bautista and Trumbo, which Bautista won with two homers.