07/10/09 6:05 PM ET
Inge to participate in Home Run Derby
Tigers slugger made All-Star Game as Final Vote winner
By Mike Scott / Special to MLB.com
Inge said that competing in the Derby is the culmination of a lifelong dream but that he is not going to stress out about it. In fact, Inge recognizes that it may be his only chance to compete on the field during All-Star weekend.
"Let's face it, I was the last American League [player] picked to be in the game, so who knows if I will even get a chance to play," Inge said before Friday's series opener against Cleveland. "But I know for a fact that I am going to [participate] in the Home Run Derby, and that really is going to be a lot of fun."
Inge leads the Tigers with 19 home runs, 10th among American League players entering Thursday and one ahead of teammate Curtis Granderson. He made some mechanical adjustments to help him increase bat speed which has made a difference in his power numbers.
Inge's wife and children are planning to attend the All-Star activities and he has selected Tigers Bullpen Catcher Scott Pickens to be his pitcher for the Derby.
"It's going to be great," Inge said. "I want my kids to be on the field to help me enjoy the moment."
It's not the first time that Inge has participated in a home run derby. He was involved in a competition during a Double-A All-Star Game several years ago, and while he didn't win, Inge said he "hit a few home runs."
Perhaps the most gratifying aspect of being named a first-time All-Star is how it happened, Inge said. He was amazed at how Tigers fans and Michigan residents rallied around his candidacy when he was named as one of the candidates for the 33rd and final roster spot for the American League in the Sprint Final Vote.
"I'm flattered, floored and honored," Inge said. "To have that type of support from Tigers fans and people all around Michigan during these economic times is amazing. It still gives me the chills thinking about it right now."
Inge will join Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino as the two final players voted into the 80th All-Star Game on Tuesday. Both the Tigers and Phillies organizations created a "Bran-Torino" marketing campaign in which fans of each team voted for each other. More than 68.6 million votes were cast, a significant increase from the 47.8 votes cast for Major League Baseball's Final Vote last year.
Inge held off Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler by collecting 11.8 million votes to secure the American League's last spot.
"Everyone was responsible for this honor and I can't thank everyone enough," Inge said.
Joe Mauer of the Twins also committed to participating in the Derby on Friday. The remaining two participants from the AL remain unconfirmed, however. Last year's champion Justin Morneau and runner-up Josh Hamilton have already declined invitations. National Leaguers Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols have already confirmed their participation.
Mike Scott is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.