Vlad Guerrero Jr. had 22 home runs in the final. Pete Alonso converted 23, earning him the one million dollar prize.
Never before in the history of baseball’s greatest exhibition competition has the loser left with more allure and aura than Vlad Guerrero Jr. did in Cleveland Monday night. The Toronto Blue Jays young prodigy made Home Run Derby history with 91 home runs over three rounds. Every pitch resulted in that timeless crunch of the baseball, resembling that of the dominant home run hitters in the game’s history.
With every home run, the fans at Progressive Field and the rest of the baseball world were bearing witness to the birth of a new baseball legend. One that doesn’t need a trophy to anoint his status in the game.
Vlad Guerrero Jr. Previous Batting Practice Paid Dividends for Home Run Derby
On July 2nd, before the Toronto Blue Jays were taking on the Boston Red Sox, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was seen undertaking a fervorous batting practice. This one was different than the previous others. Guerrero Jr. was prepping for the Home Run Derby.
Blue Jays coach John Schneider was asked by the young prospect to pitch to him during his inaugural Derby. Guerrero Jr. and Schneider have developed an inseparable bond from their days in Single-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire when John was the manager. Despite the big stage, the comfort that both share with each other made the decision to pitch to Vlad an easy one for the experienced coach.
“We’ve joked about this in the minor leagues: If he ever did this I would throw to him,” recalls Schneider. “It was really cool, humbling when he asked.”
The practice evidently paid off. In the first round, Guerrero Jr. blasted one baseball after another well into the depths of the outfield. With 29 home runs in round one, he surpassed the Derby record for home runs in a single session, previously set by Josh Hamilton.
But it was clear that Guerrero Jr. wasn’t satisfied.
“I’m tired, but I want to get to 30,” Guerrero affirmed.
Vlad vs. Joc in a Thrilling Duel
The semifinal round between Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Los Angeles Dodgers’ Joc Pederson felt like a heavyweight boxing fight. Both demonstrated unimaginable strength as they each knocked out 29 home runs. Then, in a one minute span, both Guerrero Jr. and Pederson each got seven more, resulting in another tie and the rare Derby “swing off.”
Three swings are all the batter has. Guerrero Jr. and Pederson each got one homer in three swings. Onto the next swing off. Clearly feeling fatigued, the Blue Jays signature prospect outlasted with two home runs to Pederson’s one. The two batters embraced, with Guerrero Jr.’s energetic persona shining through. All of Progressive Field was on their feet, welcoming a new star into baseball’s realm.
Vlad Guerrero Jr. Wins the Night
Pete Alonso of the New York Mets would barely overtake Guerrero Jr. in the final to be etched into Home Run Derby history. It is the continuation of a successful rookie season, where Alonso is second in the MLB in home runs (30).
But while some Derby winners get placed into the footnotes of history, legendary performances do not. The Home Run Derby exemplified the current trend in baseball. Home Runs at prolific rates are back. And Vlad Guerrero Jr. led the charge in a dominant fashion.
The previous record for home run total was Giancarlo Stanton with 61. With Vlad’s 91 home runs, it is unlikely the record will be broken any time soon. A feat that the 20-year-old credits his pitching coach for allowing him to complete.
“I feel very, very proud of John Schneider. We’ve been connected for a while. The pitches were right there,” said Guerrero Jr.
In 2007, Vlad Guerrero captured the Home Run Derby, with his young son watching on. Now, young Vlad got to make his own history, proving that he will shine in baseball for a long time.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images