07/05/11 11:30 PM ET
Field of sluggers set for Home Run Derby
Ortiz, Fielder to captain strong teams in annual All-Star event
By Evan Drellich / MLB.com
Set for 8 p.m. ET on Monday at the D-backs' Chase Field, a day before the 82nd Major League Baseball All-Star Game, this year's Derby will again showcase baseball's most prodigious hitters, starting with Boston's David Ortiz and Milwaukee's Prince Fielder.
Ortiz, who entered Tuesday hitting .301 with 17 home runs and won last year's Derby, is captaining the AL's four-man team, while Fielder, hitting .299 with 21 home runs and a Derby champ himself in 2009, is heading the NL contenders.
"I remember, when I went back to my country [the Dominican Republic] after last year's season, man, it was unbelievable how many people came to me and told me how excited the whole country was about the Home Run Derby," Ortiz said. "It seemed like everything just stopped for the Home Run Derby last year. From here, I don't even have to tell you, everybody is really enjoying the Home Run Derby."
Named captains because they are the two most recent champs, Ortiz and Fielder hand-picked their squads. The former stuck to the powerhouse American League East, where teammate Adrian Gonzalez joins him with 16 home runs heading into Tuesday's action.
"When we started talking about the Home Run Derby, they told me, 'You can pick three guys with you to go to the Home Run Derby,' and the first thing that came to my mind was Gonzo," Ortiz said. "He's ridiculous when he hits in batting practice. He tells me things in batting practice, where he wants to hit the ball, and then he goes and hits it. That's how easy he makes it look like. It's like, 'Wait a minute. That's my guy. I've got to bring Gonzo to the Home Run Derby."
"That's going to be fun," Gonzalez said. "Hopefully I can do better the second time around, but I'm going to enjoy it just like I did the first time and try my best."
It wouldn't be a Home Run Derby without the Major League's big-fly leader, and Toronto's Jose Bautista will be there for the AL. He's hit a Major League-leading 28 home runs, after launching one Tuesday night in Boston.
"He's always reached out to me since I was younger," Bautista said of Ortiz. "Having him pick me is great because I know the support he was giving me last year. Now, he has a choice and he obviously did what he thinks is right and he selected me. It's great coming from him, and I hope to do a good job and represent him well."
Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano rounds out Ortiz's team and carried 14 home runs into Tuesday.
In the NL, Fielder too turned to a teammate, one who happens to be his best friend in the game, Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks. Weeks had 15 home runs at the time of his addition to the Senior Circuit's Derby team.
"He's a teammate of mine, this is his first All-Star Game, and I'm really excited for him," Fielder said. "I want him to show people how far he can hit it."
Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday was invited with his .316 average and 10 homers, and Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp got the nod in the midst of the best year of his career. Kemp was tied for the NL lead in homers with 22.
"I've been watching it since I was a kid and I've always dreamed of being in one," Kemp said. "I remember watching Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr., all the big hitters on TV. Every kid that likes baseball likes the Home Run Derby."
Ortiz is the elder statesman of the participants, heading into his fifth Derby. This will be a third for Fielder ('07, '09) and Holliday ('07, '10) and a second for Gonzalez ('09). Bautista, Cano, Kemp and Weeks are first-timers.
"That's the kind of thing that when you're a young kid, you look forward to and dream about one day," Cano said. "It's always good to taste what it's like to be there."
There were other players on the cusp of joining. The Yankees' Mark Teixeira said he would have participated had he made the All-Star team, which he did not, and Fielder was considering Arizona's Justin Upton and told Fox Sports Wisconsin he was thinking about Florida's Mike Stanton, too.
"I wish I could invite everybody I knew," Fielder said. "That was the only part that was tough."
Besides being a spectacle of power, the Home Run Derby is also a charitable event, and as captains, Ortiz and Fielder will select a charity that their teams will support. State Farm and Major League Baseball collaborate to donate money to both teams, win or lose.
For the winning captain's charity, there will be a $150,000 donation in the captain's name, along with a $100,000 contribution to Boys & Girls Club of America (BCGA). The losing team will have a $25,000 made to the charity of its captains choice and in his name. The remaining money -- determined by how many homers are hit in the competition, and how many are hit on Gold Ball tosses -- will be donated to BCGA on behalf of State Farm and MLB.
State Farm and MLB will combine to donate $18,000 for every home run hit with a Gold Ball, a dollar figure chosen because it coincides with the number of State Farm agents throughout the U.S. and Canada. State Farm will also give $3,000 to BGCA for every non-Gold Ball hit out. Home runs hit in all rounds count toward the total money donated.
All participants get 10 outs per round, with the four players with the most homers advancing to a second round. The two players with the highest cumulative number of long balls after the second round advance to the Championship Round, where first and second-round homers do not carry over.
In addition to coverage on ESPN, the 2011 State Farm Home Run Derby will be broadcast live on ESPN HD, ESPN 3D, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com, ESPN Mobile TV, and ESPN Radio in the U.S., as well as ESPN International, beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Monday. For more information, visit allstargame.com or dbacks.com/asg.