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DENVER — Even if he isn’t lighting the baseball world on fire as he did two years ago, Pete Alonso reminded everyone Monday night that he remains a platinum-level showman.
Three years in the big leagues, two Home Run Derby champions. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.
Alternately urging the Coors Field crowd for vocal support and bobbing along to his music, displaying a colorful array of bats and wearing cleats that showcased his Homers for Heroes Foundation, Alonso outlasted the Orioles’ Trey Mancini, 23-22, doing his part to liven up a crowd of 49,098 that clearly entered the ballpark hoping to see great things from Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani — who lost to the Nationals’ Juan Soto, 31-28, in double overtime. By doing so, the 26-year-old successfully defended the crown he captured as a rookie in 2019 (the pandemic canceled the 2020 event) and winning himself another $1 million in prize money.
“For me, I think I’m the best power hitter on the planet,” Alonso said in a press conference, as he wore a spinning championship medallion and sported his trophy. “And being able to showcase that and really put on a fun display for fans, I just think that it’s truly a dream come true for me. Because when I was younger, my parents actually let me stay up past my bedtime to watch this.”
He added: “There was no point where I thought I was going to lose, ever.”
Alonso totaled 74 dingers for the night, the most of any hitter, and his final six came in a six-pitch flurry off his chosen derby partner, Mets bench coach Dave Jauss, who aided his charge with precise offerings.
“Jaussy was putting them right in the bread basket,” Alonso said.
Alonso had finished regulation with 17 homers, and he didn’t need half of his extra minute to get the job done. Like nearly all of his shots, his clincher went to left field, and Alonso dropped his bat and thrust both arms forward before hugging Jauss in triumph.
As defending champ, Alonso gained no edge in the competition. He had tallied the fifth-most homers at the time the brackets were slotted, so he drew the fifth seed. He shared: “Teammates came up to me, ‘Oh, that’s disrespect, you’re defending the title. What guy that’s defending their title is a fifth seed? Nobody. And are you pissed about that?’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m going to win anyways, it doesn’t matter.’ ”
For sure, Alonso’s experience in this contest sure appeared to ease his comfort level, as he blew away the other sluggers by crushing 35 homers in the first round, a Derby opening-round record. The second round proved even easier against Soto, who, likely wiped out after his marathon battle versus Ohtani, managed a modest total of 15. Alonso barely required a timeout, knocking out 14 before giving himself a break with 1:03 to go in his opening round and then cranking the winning two in his next two swings.
Baltimore’s Mancini carried his own story of inspiration, as he competed after missing all of last year to undergo treatment for colon cancer. Up against Alonso, though, he couldn’t complete his mission.
“He’s a beast out there,” Mancini said of Alonso, and a savvy one to boot. When an MLB representative introduced Alonso as the 2021 Derby champion, Alonso quickly amended: “Back-to-back champion.”
Back to back to back, with next year’s All-Star festivities scheduled for Dodger Stadium in California. Even Alonso, never shying from the stage, expressed a readiness to commit to that.
“ I don’t know if I’m going to do it in L.A.,” he said “It’s going to be such a fun event at Dodger Stadium, but right now I’m just going to enjoy this one. I feel like right now, my Home Run Derby legacy, I’m one of the best people to do it.”
Just as important for this event, one of the most entertaining, too.
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