© 2012 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
KANSAS CITY -- Those poor fountains won't know what hit 'em.
The annual State Farm Home Run Derby invades Kauffman Stadium tonight at 8 p.m. ET, with a national broadcast on ESPN and a simulcast on MLB.com. Thanks to another fantastic field, it should be the usual awe-inspiring power presentation serving as an All-Star appetizer.
But the home of the Royals provides an even better backdrop than most Major League parks, with those illuminated fountains ready to swallow up any long balls that don't find their way into open hands or leather gloves.
So get ready for a surplus of splashes when Robinson Cano, Prince Fielder, Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo represent the American League and Matt Kemp, Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Beltran and Andrew McCutchen the National. Their hand-selected batting practice pitchers hope to be coughing them up in Kauffman.
A rules refresher, for those in need:
Each player will get 10 "outs" -- or, any swing that doesn't result in a home run -- per round, with the top four homer hitters moving on to the second round and the players with the two top combined totals for rounds one and two advancing to the finals.
And once again, the sluggers involved in the Derby will not only inspire some "oohs" and "aahs" from the audience but also go to bat for several worthy causes.
Following the format introduced a year ago, the Derby will be a charity competition between the AL and NL. Each team's captain has selected a charity, with $150,000 going to the winning team's charity and $100,000 going to the Boys & Girls Club of America (BGCA) in the name of the winning captain. The losing team's charity will receive $25,000. All remaining charity money generated by the event will go to BGCA on behalf of State Farm and MLB.
When a player gets to nine outs, the "Gold Ball" will be put in play. For each Gold Ball home run, State Farm and MLB will donate $18,000 to designated charities. State Farm will also donate an additional $3,000 for every non-Gold Ball home run hit throughout the Derby.
Last year, the Derby raised $603,000 for various charities.
This event has also become social media savvy, with social media stations set up on both sides of the field so that players can log into their Twitter accounts and upload photo and video shot on their mobile phones. The hashtag #HRDerby will once again be heavily employed.
Cano, the reigning Derby champ, and Kemp will serve as the captains of these two squads, and it is Kemp's availability for and appearance in this event that provides particular intrigue, given that he's been out of action for his Dodgers since the end of May.
Kemp, who had a torrid April output before left hamstring issues besieged his season in mid-May, appeared in six rehab games in the Minor Leagues and is scheduled to rejoin the Dodgers after the break. But first, he'll suit up for the NL All-Star squad and take his turn in the Derby competition for the second consecutive year.
"We're not worried about Matt getting hurt at all," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He has been hitting [batting practice] for over a month. We'd know if something was bothering him. From the beginning, the doctor was never worried about him swinging the bat, it's always been about him running."
One guy who won't be swinging the bat Monday night, after all, is the Marlins' mountain of a man, Giancarlo Stanton.
The thought of the 22-year-old Stanton, who has propelled the ball in excess of 500 feet and even damaged a scoreboard with one of his prodigious blasts earlier this year, in this event was a tantalizing one, but he was unfortunately scratched because of a knee injury that requires surgery. In his place will be the Pirates' McCutchen, who, at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, won't cause jaws to drop quite the way Stanton could but is on pace for a career year in the homer department, with 18 at the break, including a pair on Sunday.
Another first-timer in the Derby department is the Angels' Trumbo, and the 6-foot-4, 225-pound slugger, who has 22 blasts at the break, seems perfectly suited for this showcase. His batting-practice blasts are already becoming the stuff of big-league yore.
"I'm a guy that cuts it loose most of the time anyway," Trumbo said, "so my goal is always to put myself in a position to drive the ball. So it's not a huge adjustment for me. I mess around every once in a while and try to launch balls. It's nothing that's terribly out of the ordinary for me."
There was nothing ordinary about the show Cano put on at Chase Field last summer, and he'll be back to defend his title. He's also on pace this season for a career-high in the homer tally, so he should be in fine form.
Fielder is another past Derby champ. He didn't reach the finals last year, two years after winning it in St. Louis. Bautista, for all his in-season accolades, only clubbed four homers in his Derby debut last year and will look to vastly improve on that showing.
The Rockies' Gonzalez will be an All-Star and Derby newbie, and he certainly seems excited, having told the Denver Post he was going to "swing hard for the streets." So look out up there on I-70.
Beltran is also new to the Derby, despite having appeared on six previous All-Star rosters. And this will be a homecoming, of sorts, for Beltran, who spent the first 6 1/2 seasons of his prodigious career in K.C.
"This is something," Beltran said, "where I just go to have fun and enjoy it."
Of course, as fun as it is, the competitive instincts always kick in at the Derby. And come Monday night, we'll see who makes the biggest splash.