Monday night marked the return of the MLB Home Run Derby, an exciting lead-up to the MLB All-Star Game set for Tuesday evening.
After the event was canceled in 2020 due to COVID concerns, baseball fans were thrilled to watch some of the league’s top hitters battle it out.
The matchup pitted reigning Home Run Derby champ Pete Alonso against other star hitters, including Shohei Ohtani, Salvador Perez, Joey Gallo, and Matt Olson.
Alonso came out on top once again to win this year’s Derby, but not without some stiff competition.
What is the Home Run Derby?
The Home Run Derby is a hitting competition hosted by the MLB. The league’s top home run hitters go up to bat to see who can hit the most home runs. Here are some other details about this exciting sports event.
When is the Home Run Derby?
The Home Run Derby is typically held the day before the MLB All-Star Game on a Monday night in July.
Who qualifies for the Home Run Derby?
Only the most powerful sluggers in the MLB make it to the Derby.
This isn’t a competition for all-around great hitters; it’s specifically for those with the most home runs so far that season.
This year’s competitors (and their homer totals) were:
- Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (31)
- Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers (21)
- Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics (20)
- Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals (20)
- Pete Alonso, New York Mets (15)
- Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles (15)
- Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies (11)
- Juan Soto, Washington Nationals (10)
Home Run Derby format
Previously, the Derby used an “outs” format to eliminate players.
In 2015, the MLB came up with a new format to make the event even more exciting for fans.
The switch to a time limit format with no “outs” encourages players to swing for as many hits as possible, and the bracket-style event allows top players to go up to bat multiple times.
The current format is as follows:
- The event is set up as a bracket-style, single-elimination competition with three rounds. The round one Home Run Derby bracket matchups are seeded based on season standings for the most home runs.
- Players have three minutes to hit as many home runs as possible in rounds one and two.
- In the final round, players have two minutes to hit as many homers as they can.
- Players are awarded an additional 30 seconds for hitting a home run over 475 feet.
- Each player gets one 45-second timeout to stop the clock.
- There are two tiebreaker options. First, there is a one-minute swing-off with no timeouts or bonus time. If there is still a tie after the swing-off, players compete in three-swing sets until the tie is broken.
Highlights from the 2021 Home Run Derby
The 2021 Derby had several stand-out stars. Here are some of the key takeaways from this year’s event:
- Mets slugger Pete Alonso took home top honors at the 2019 Home Run Derby after out-hitting Trey Mancini in the final round. Given the Derby’s cancellation last year, Alonso held on to his title going into Monday night’s event. His win made him the third player in MLB history to become a back-to-back Home Run Derby champ. He also broke the record for first round hits with 35 homers.
- Shohei Ohtani, pitcher/designated hitter for the Angels, was favored to win Monday night. He went into the event with 31 homers, more than any other player this season, and made history as the first Japanese-born player and first pitcher to participate in the Derby. After a nail-biter of a first round against Juan Soto that went into two tiebreakers, Soto came out on top. He’ll be starting pitcher and lead hitter for the American League in Tuesday’s All-Star Game.
- Trey Mancini of the Orioles was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer at age 28 in 2020. He skipped that season to undergo surgery to remove a tumor followed by chemotherapy. This year, he’s received a warm welcome back to the game and his appearance at the Home Run Derby was remarkably inspirational considering his grueling health battle just one year prior. He defied longshot odds to beat Matt Olson in round one, inch past Trevor Story in the second round, and reach the final round against Alonso.
- Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto may have only made it to the second round, but he left a lasting impression nonetheless. In round one, Soto made history with the longest HR Derby home run ever at 520 feet. Previously, that record was held by Aaron Judge for a 513-foot homer in 2017. Soto wasn’t the only one to come out strong, with Pete Alonso (514 feet) and Trevor Story (518 feet) also recording long hits in the first round.
- Coors Field in Denver played an important role in the night’s events as well. The home of the Colorado Rockies is famous for its high home run counts, including a historic 1999 season with 303 home runs recorded at the ballpark. The reason behind those impressive stats might surprise you, though. The ball actually travels 9% farther at Coors Field due to the high altitude of the Mile High City (that’s 5,280 feet above sea level), giving powerful hitters an extra boost.
Memorable moments in Home Run Derby history
The Home Run Derby is up there with the MLB draft, the All-Star Game, and the World Series when it comes to exciting moments and history-making hits. Here are some of the stand-outs from Derbies past:
- Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the top Derby hitters to ever compete. He’s come out on top three times, giving him the most Derby wins of any player. And after his first win in 1994, he became the first player to win in consecutive years in 1998 and 1999.
- Cal Ripken Jr. wasn’t considered to be one of best homer-hitters in the MLB, but he surprised fans with an impressive win at the 1991 Home Run Derby. He hit 12 homers, far outpacing his seven competitors who only hit a combined 15. He won the MVP Award that same year, making him the first player to win both in the same season.
- The 1996 Derby matchup between Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds is one many baseball fans still remember. Both players were some of the top homer-hitters in MLB history, and the exciting competition was neck and neck until the very end when Bonds hit three in a row to take it home.
- In 2011, Robinson Cano made history by having his dad, former Astros player Jose Cano, pitch to him in the Home Run Derby. The father-son moment was even made even more special when Cano took home the top honors that night.
- Yoenis Cespedes, an outfielder for the A’s at the time, became the second player in history to win back-to-back Derbies in 2014. That night, he hit twice as many as the next closest competitor with 28 total dingers.
- Pete Alonso didn’t just make history on Monday night. His 2019 win at the Derby was just as impressive considering his rookie status at the time. He went on to have 53 homers that season, the most by any rookie in MLB history.