By John Bombatch
CINCINNATI —The hometown hero pulled it off.
Cincinnati Red Todd Frazier hit his 15th home run of the finals in the bonus round to nip Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson in the Home Run Derby championship.
There was little doubt as to who the hometown crowd was rooting for, during Monday night’s Home Run Derby. They wanted a Cincinnati Red to win the whole thing, and that Red was Todd Frazier.
From rallying from 5-6 home runs down in the opening round, to clouting the winning HR to straightaway centerfield, the partisan Reds crowd roared with approval with every ball Frazier hit over the fences.
Frazier earned his second consecutive trip to the All-Star Game HR Derby finals. He finished second to Yoenis Cespedes last season. But the hometown crowd gave him what he needed to win it this time around.
And when despised former St. Louis Cardinal Albert Pujols, now of the Los Angeles Angels, bowed out in the semifinals as the event’s top seed, the Cincinnati fans cheered that stroke of luck as well.
This is the first time for Major League Baseball to implement a time limit on the contesting batters during the Home Run Derby. Whether the intent is to speed the process up, not sure, but the original format was further adjusted in an attempt to get in the entire competition before the next round of storms hit the Cincinnati area.
On Monday morning, a severe storm drenched the area and whipped around a lot of the traditional red, white and blue bunting, but no other visible damage was seen at Great American Ball Park. Local radio station WLW-AM had reported downed trees in some areas of Deer Park and Winton Woods, and close to 50,000 homes were reported without power. Some portions of north and southbound Interstate 75 had accumulated enough rain to flood some of the lanes, during the peak of the storm.
The National Weather Service had said there was a window of good (read as dry!) weather until approximately 11:30 p.m.
Nevertheless, Major League Baseball tweaked its Home Run Derby format a little bit in order to get the event in.
Instead of each batter getting five minutes in each round to hit as many home runs as they can, the competitors were given four minutes.
Also, two HRs of 420-feet or more originally would earn a batter another minute to hit. MLB altered that as well, saying batters will earn an extra 30 seconds instead.
NEW CHAMPION IS CERTAIN
With two-time defending HR Derby champion Yoenis Cespedes not voted into Tuesday’s All-Star Game, the Detroit Tigers slugger will not be able to defend his title. Former Seattle Mariner and Cincinnati Red Ken Griffey Jr. is the only other Major Leaguer to win the HR Derby two years in a row. Griffey Jr. won in 1998 and 1999, and finished second in 2000.
Each contestant in Monday night’s HR Derby was allowed to select his own pitcher. Here’s who tossed fat pitches to whom:
Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs — Franklin Font (Staff assistant with the Cubs)
Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays — Bobby Tewksbary (Hitting Instructor)
Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers — Sandy Guerrero, (Hitting Coach, Biloxi Shuckers)
Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds — Charles Frazier (Brother)
Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles — Einar Diaz (Coach, Orioles)
Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers — Johnny Washington (Hitting Coach, Oklahoma City Dodgers)
Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels — Dino Ebel (Bench Coach, Angels)
Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs — Mike Bryant (Father)
Through Gillette, and Head & Shoulders shampoo, the Home Run Derby will help raise funds for Major League Baseball’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) national program. First-round dingers hit into the left field upper deck, or what Head & Shoulders refers to as “The Flake Free Zone,” will earn a $1,000. The amount climbs to $5,000 per knock in the second round, and $10,000 for those hit in the championship round.
SHUT UP AND WALK THE MOON
Cincinnati band Walk The Moon performed prior to the HR Derby. They included their recent alternative rock hit “Shut Up and Dance With Me.”