07/10/07 1:26 AM ET
Vlad captures first Derby crown
Angels slugger bests Blue Jays' Rios in final round
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
Albert Pujols of the Cardinals finished with a flurry, but his nine for a two-round total of 13 was also not good enough. The totals of the first two rounds decided which two players qualified for the finals.Defending champ Howard of the Phillies missed the cut with just three homers in the first round. The lefty swingers had a decided disadvantage and were all eliminated early. They took aim at McCovey Cove above a 24-foot red brick wall and that distant 421-foot right-center field power alley. The right-handers had that more accommodating 382-foot alley in left-center and an eight-foot high fence running from the left-field foul pole shooting across to right-center. There were no "Splash Hits" aside from a loud first-round foul ball by Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, although Guerrero hit one into the parking lot beyond the left-field bleachers in the second round. He also hit another shot 503 feet during that display, the longest of the event. During league play 58 balls have been hit into the Cove by Major League hitters, 34 of them by Giants slugger Barry Bonds, who has often said it's not an easy feat. "You see Barry hit a lot and it's actually harder to do than people think," said Howard before the festivities. "I've seen Barry do it a few times," added Justin Morneau of the Twins. "Not too many guys can hit it out there." Bonds, the starting left fielder in Tuesday night's All-Star Game for the National League, declined to participate in the Derby. Howard, Morneau and Fielder were the only lefty hitters among the eight in the competition. Aside from that trio, Magglio Ordonez of the Tigers was also eliminated in the first round. Morneau, who tied with Pujols for the final spot, was beaten in a five-swing playoff, 2-1. A total of $254,000 was earned for charity on the evening, $85,000 alone by Rios, who smacked out five Gold Balls before recording his last out of the second round. The Gold Ball came into play after the ninth out was recorded in any at-bat taken by each hitter. For every home run hit before the 10th and final out, MLB and State Farm combined to donate $17,000. That figure represents the 17,000 State Farm agents working across the U.S. and Canada. Proceeds from the Gold Ball contributions continue to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, MLB's official charity. The Gold Ball platform was just an added plus to the competition, Rios said. "I had a great time," he said. "It was a great experience. I'm still loving it."
Los Angeles Angels
Toronto Blue Jays
St. Louis Cardinals
* Pujols advanced in a Round 1 Swing-off, 2-1
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporter Rich Draper contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.