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Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, with help from his dad, hit a record twelve home runs in the final round of the 2011 MLB Home Run Derby to take home the trophy in his first ever derby appearance.
The MLB couldn’t write a script any better than what happened at Chase Field Monday night. In the most sentimental part of the contest, Cano chose his father, former major league pitcher Jose Cano to pitch to him in the derby.
The MLB chose a different approach in choosing the competitors in 2011. They named the past two years champions, David Ortiz in 2010 and Prince Fielder in 2009 as the captains of their respective leagues. Each of them were able to hand pick three other members from their league to join them in the derby. Ortiz went with an all AL East roster of Jose Bautista, Robinson Cano and Adrian Gonzalez while Fielder chose his teammate Rickie Weeks along with Matt Kemp and Matt Holliday.
The American League roster seemed to be a bit more impressive than the National League from the get-go, and proved to be just that after the bats began to swing.
Adrian Gonzalez is the runaway favorite halfway through the season for the American League MVP, and he kicked off the derby looking like just that. Gonzalez pounded nine homers through his first ten outs including a few mammoth blasts.
Matt Holliday struggled a bit at first, but still found a way to get five balls out of the park.
Cano stepped up next and the father-son connection worked out pretty well for the Yankees second baseman notching some of the furthest shots of the first round including a ridiculous 472 ft. blast to center field. Cano ended up with eight homers, punching his ticket to the second round.
Rickie Weeks stepped up fourth to the plate probably as the biggest underdog in the field of competitors. Unfortunately, Fielder’s loyalty in picking his teammate to join him in representing the NL did not work out all that well and Weeks was only able to muster three dingers.
The much anticipated Home Run Derby debut of Jose Bautista came next and the spotlight was bright on him. Bautista led the league in homers in 2010 and leads again halfway through the year again this season, notching a remarkable total of 85 homers since the start of last season The Blue Jays outfielder, nicknamed “Joey Bats” unfortunately went quiet in his first derby appearance. Nerves probably got the best of him and he ended up with a paltry four balls out of the park.
Matt Kemp, like Gonzalez is an arguable MVP favorite for his league. The center fielder that has the tools to do everything on the baseball field also wasn’t able to get in a rhythm. Solid contact wasn’t his problem crushing line drives down the foul line, but he was unable to get enough lift on the ball. Kemp made nine outs before hitting a long ball but was able to get the monkey off his back on his last few swings and finished with two bombs.
Defending champion and American League captain David Ortiz stepped up next and made a shocking decision. He left the Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry in Boston and also chose Robinson Cano’s father to throw to him in the derby. “Big Papi” ended up with an appropriate five homers in his fifth Home Run Derby.
The National League captain and Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder uncorked his long powerful swing for a total of five home runs as well.
Since Fielder, Ortiz and Holliday all ended with five dingers, and there was only two spots to fill in the second round, the three of them were thrust into a “swing off” to determine who would get those two spots. In a “swing off” each competitor gets five swings, regardless of outs or home runs to see who can put the most out of the park. The two former champions got the best of Holliday including five homers in five swings for Fielder, advancing them to the second round, leaving Prince as the lone national league representative remaining in the contest.
The total home runs combined between the first and second round for each player would determine who would advance to the finals.
Cano, one of the most pure hitters in the game today blasted twelve homers in round two to lock up his spot in the finals. Gonzalez was then able to pound eleven of his own to put the pressure on the former champions. Ortiz faltered, eliminating him, and though Fielder was able to blast the longest home run of the contest at a “Ruthian” 474 ft., his low first-round total held him back allowing fans to see a Yankees – Red Sox rivalry in the finals.
In the final round, scores reset and the remaining two players duke it out to see who would get the honor of lifting the iconic silver trophy in the end.
Ultimately, after a great show from both men, the Yankees slugger was able to edge out his opponent and take home the crown.
Cano joins the ranks of names like Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire as champions of one of the most exciting events in sports today.
The consolation prize for 2010 champ Ortiz? His 77 career derby home runs eclipses the former record of 74 held by none other than “the kid,” Ken Griffey Jr.
And hey, at least he picked some great hitters.
Image Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/