Home Run Derby 2017: All Rise for the Champ!

The conversation going into the Home Run Derby exhibition at Marlins Park tonight was all about Miami power-slugger and last year’s HR Derby champ Giancarlo Stanton facing off with the Yankees’ own Aaron Judge. Half the crowd was celebrating the rookie slugger from the other coast, and the other half was booing the threat on behalf of their hometown hero. It was bound to be a slugfest with those two, but that doesn’t include how many other power-hitters made the top 8.

Okay, to set-up the show, the 8 players in the Derby were placed in a bracket completely on their 2017 season stats so far with Stanton taking the 1st seed and Judge in 2nd (and Gary Sanchez in 8th). Once they are paired off for the first round, each player gets 4 minutes to hit as many balls as possible out of the park. If he hits two or more home runs 440+ feet, the player gets a 30-second bonus time at the end of the original 4 minutes. The winner of that round faces off with the winner of another pairing for the Final Four. The two winners of the semi-finals go onto the finals (same time limits) until a winner emerges.

Round 1:
The Twins’ Miguel Sano (#5 in Derby placement) edged out the Royals’ Mike Moustakas (#4) 11 to 10 homers. The Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton (#1) failed to reach the standard set by the Yankees’ own Gary Sanchez who earned some ire from the hometown crowd with his 17 homers, to Stanton’s 16. In that round, Sanchez’s longest home run was hit 483 feet, with his average ball traveling 443.5 feet.

The Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon’s 14 homers were edged out by the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger’s 15. And another hitter from the Marlins Justin Bour’s impressive 22 home runs fell short of Aaron Judge‘s 23. The second-to-last hit ball hit the roof and for some reason didn’t count. In this round, Judge’s longest hit home run was his 4th of the round, a 501 feet homer, averaging 432 feet.

So it would be Sanchez to face Sano and a potential rookie MVP face-off Bellinger vs. Judge in the semi-finals.

Round 2:
Gary Sanchez’s 10 home runs eventually falls to Miguel Sano’s 11. Sanchez still hit some big homers that round, one traveling 485 feet and all 10 averaging 442.8 feet. Cody Bellinger got off to a slow start and hit just 12 home runs in his 4 minutes, but Aaron Judge was just getting started when he hit #13 to win that round. Judge was just crushing home runs, with his longest homer traveling an unbelievable 513 feet and averaging 448 overall.

So it would be Miguel Sano to set the bar for Aaron Judge to beat. Sano is fairly slow in the box normally, so finding his pace, he was able to add 10 more to his overall total. But Judge’s momentum was just unstoppable tonight, and after hitting just over half his allotted time, Judge surpassed Sano’s total, getting 11 in this round to become the 2017 Home Run Champion. This round was a little less for Judge’s power, his longest only traveling 480 feet and his average was 430 feet overall.

All season, I’ve been clinging to a just comparison for watching Judge play baseball, and I just keep going back to my grandfather, who was really a true baseball fan. He loved watching the greats well before I was born. So I imagine he might make the comparison to watching Judge play akin to something like watching Mantle play.

You sometimes can’t tell when the young player you’re watching might one day be headed to Cooperstown and into baseball lore. But you can with Judge. I’ve been watching baseball all of my life, seeing some of the more recent inductees play ball. But I’ve honestly never seen anything like Judge before. And now, he just became the first rookie player to win the Home Run Derby.

Earlier today, the MLBPA (the players’ union) and Players’ Trust helped build a local playground as part of their commitment to give back during the All-Star Game. Then the players headed off to media day to answer all sorts of press questions before all the fun began for tonight’s Derby. The managers for the ASG tomorrow also released their starting roster today (Judge is batting 3rd for the AL team).

Also, before the Derby tonight, Christopher Jackson (who starred as George Washington in the hit Broadway show Hamilton) sang the national anthem. Jackson played in the celebrity softball game (and on the winning NL team 28-22) last night after the Futures’ Game.

So overall, what a great Monday in Miami! Tomorrow should be interesting with the Red Carpet Parade leading up to the main event — the All-Star Game — where loyal Yankees fans will be watching our boys (Judge, Sanchez, Castro, Betances, and Severino) with great anticipation.

Go Yankees!

{Oh, and a happy birthday to Yankees Life’s special guest blogger Pinstripes09 (last post: Mother’s Day)! Who I know was totally excited (and nervous) for the entire Derby but was the first one to cheer on Judge and Sanchez all night!}

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