07/12/2004 11:30 PM ET
Blalock learns in Derby debut
Relishes chance to join game's great sluggers in event
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
|Hank Blalock hit three home runs in his Home Run Derby debut. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Round-by-round results & highlights
Blalock on being in HR Derby: 56K | 350K
Blalock goes deep in Round 1: 56K | 350K
HOUSTON -- It turns out that Hank Blalock has an easier time hitting home runs at the All-Star Game against Eric Gagne than Willie Randolph.
Last year, the first-time All-Star blasted a pinch-hit, two-run home run against Gagne, the Dodgers' dominating closer, lifting the American League to a 7-6 win and home-field advantage in the World Series. In the process, Blalock became the 12th player in history to homer in his first All-Star at-bat, the 17th to homer as a pinch-hitter.
Monday night, Blalock competed in the Century 21 Home Run Derby for the first time in his young career, but the results weren't quite what the 23-year-old had hoped for.
Blalock's three first-round homers weren't enough to advance him to the semifinals, and he sat and watched from the sidelines as Baltimore's Miguel Tejada captured the title, defeating hometown favorite Lance Berkman in the finals.
"I'm a 23-year-old kid in the Home Run Derby," said Blalock, whose 23 home runs tie him for second in the AL with Boston's David Ortiz. "I had a blast. It was awesome."
Even though he failed to make it out of the first round, Blalock said that he will always remember the experience, most notably the pre-Derby introductions, as every living member of the 500-homer club walked by and shook his hand.
"I was in awe standing up there," Blalock said. "Me, David Ortiz and Miguel Tejada were joking that we didn't have 500 combined between the three of us. It was pretty special to be there, to shake the hands of guys like Hank Aaron and Mark McGwire."
The Texas third baseman had the unenviable task of following Barry Bonds -- the San Francisco slugger who ranks third on the all-time home run list with 681 -- in the opening round. Bonds blasted eight homers, setting the tone for the first round.
"That was a good show he put on to start things off," Blalock said. "Coming up after him, that's something I'll always remember. Bonds has 681 homers, I have 55."
With Randolph -- the Yankees' bench coach -- throwing to him, Blalock failed to hit the first two balls out, drilling one off the top of the outfield wall. His third swing left the yard, landing in the second deck in right field.
After making his third out, Blalock drilled another long ball into the second deck in right, giving him two. Another out followed, but Blalock crushed his third homer, hitting it 453 feet, just to the right of center field.
"I hit one pretty good to right-center that was one of the longest ones for a little while," Blalock said. "Then guys started bombing them into the streets."
Just when it looked as though he had some momentum going his way, Blalock lost his groove. He made outs on his next four swings, then belted a ball to deep center. But it didn't leave the park, landing on the hill in center field for out No. 9. After one more failed attempt, his night was over.
"I'm glad I flipped a couple out of there," Blalock said. "I felt a little antsy, a little anxious. Willie told me to take a couple of pitches, but I swung at four or five that I probably should have looked at. That probably comes with experience."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.