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Berkman joins Home Run Derby
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07/11/2004 9:24 PM ET
Berkman joins Home Run Derby
Astros slugger to replace Griffey in long-ball contest
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Lance Berkman (Alan Diaz/AP)
HOUSTON -- Houston's Lance Berkman, who has hit more home runs at Minute Maid Park than anyone except his teammate Jeff Bagwell, agreed Sunday to take the place of Ken Griffey Jr. after the Cincinnati center fielder pulled out of Monday's Century 21 Home Run Derby because of a partially torn hamstring.

Berkman joins San Francisco's Barry Bonds, Philadelphia's Jim Thome and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs on the National League squad. Baltimore's Rafael Palmeiro, Boston's David Ortiz, Hank Blalock of Texas and Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees comprise the American League team.

Berkman, who competed in the event in 2002 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, has hit 59 home runs at Minute Maid, second only to Bagwell's 94. The switch-hitting outfielder said last week he would be honored to participate in the Home Run Derby if he were invited.

2004 Home Run Derby

"It would fantastic to be a part of that," Berkman said. "It was a lot of fun when I did it in Milwaukee, even though I didn't do too well in (the Derby), but still it would be an honor to be chosen for something like that, and when it's in your own park that makes it even more special."

Griffey's absence still leaves the three other active players who have hit at least 500 career home runs -- Palmeiro, Sosa and Bonds -- in the event which will be televised live from Minute Maid Park on ESPN and MLB.com.

The rules for the Century 21 Home Run Derby, which will begin at 7 p.m. CDT, are the same as last year. Each player gets 10 outs per at-bat to hit as many home runs as possible. An out is registered when a player swings at a pitch and does not hit a home run.

The top four players from the first round, regardless of league affiliation, advance to the semifinals, and the top two players from the semis proceed to the Championship. The two finalists get 10 outs to hit as many home runs as they can with the player with the most homers in that round declared the winner. Home run totals do not carry over from one round to the next.

Even though there are only two right-handed hitters competing (Sosa and the switch-hitting Berkman) this year's event could see a considerable number of homers hit. Minute Maid Park is hitter friendly, especially down the lines (315 to left and 326 to right) and the ball carries well to the left-center gap, especially when the roof is open. The right-field fence is only seven feet high.

"It's a lot more of a hitters park than others but I think it's fair, too, because you have to hit the ball a long way to hit it out in center (field)," Berkman said.

Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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