New York Mets' Pete Alonso repeats as Home Run Derby champion: 'I think I'm the best power hitter...

ByAlden Gonzalez ESPN logo
Tuesday, July 13, 2021

DENVER -- Pete Alonso was 10 home runs down with a little more than half a minute remaining in the final round of Monday night's Home Run Derby, but nothing about his demeanor signaled concern. TheNew York Metsslugger called a timeout, took a casual stroll, then bopped his head and mouthed some of the words to The Notorious B.I.G's "Hypnotize" right before settling back into the batter's box.

Over the next 36 seconds, Alonso amassed five more home runs.

In his first six swings of bonus time, he cranked out six more, defeatingBaltimore Oriolesfirst basemanTrey Mancini to become the third back-to-back Home Run Derby champion in front of a frenzied, sold-out crowd at Coors Field. Alonso recorded 74 home runs -- totaling 6.35 miles in distance -- in defeatingKansas City RoyalscatcherSalvador Perez,Washington NationalsstarJuan Soto and Mancini over the course of three rounds. He claimed a silver trophy, donned a bejeweled, spinning necklace and won $1 million.

"I think I'm the best power hitter on the planet," Alonso declared afterward. "Being able to showcase that, and really putting on a fun display for fans, I just think it's a dream come true for me because when I was young, my parents let me stay up past my bedtime to watch this. That was one of the few nights per year I actually got to stay up past my bedtime, just watch incredible feats that you don't see in a regular baseball game.

"To be able to participate -- it's a dream come true. To be able to do it back-to-back -- this is really special for me. And really cool."

This year's derby -- a three-round, eight-player, bracket-style tournament with timed rounds -- was staged in the sport's most notoriously hitter-friendly ballpark, with baseballs that were not stored in the humidors that attempt to normalize the mile-high environment. It featured a dizzying array of mammoth home runs, an epic showdown between Soto andLos Angeles Angelstwo-way sensationShohei Ohtaniand an inspiring performance from Mancini.

Mancini, 29, was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in March 2020 and navigated through a biweekly chemotherapy program over the next six months. He struggled to stay hydrated and fought through a vulnerable immune system in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he worked his way back with the Orioles and earned his spot in the derby with a 16-homer first half. Mancini faced the second-longest odds of winning the event, then came excruciatingly close to defeating one of the favorites.

In doing so, Mancini hoped to send a message to cancer survivors.

"I think it can set an example that you can go back to your normal life, even if you have this thing hanging over you sometimes," Mancini said. "That's the message that I really wanted to get across. I'm still going through a battle, and there's so many people going through battles still, but you can go back to where you were before. I feel great about my health and where I am and what the future holds, but you definitely don't wanna take any day for granted."

Ohtani, the event's headliner, was eliminated by Soto after an exhilarating first round that included two tiebreakers and a combined 61 home runs, 10 of which traveled 500-plus feet.

Ohtani started slow, producing only one home run in his first 16 swings. But he rallied late, thanks in part to an impromptu phone call from Angels teammateMike Trout, and hit two home runs within the last 10 seconds of his round to tie Soto's original total of 22. They each followed with six home runs in the one-minute tiebreaker. But Soto went 3-for-3 in the ensuing swing-off, while Ohtani produced a hard grounder to the right side, ending his night.

"In the last 30 seconds of both the first round and the tiebreaker, I was really exhausted," Ohtani said through his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, who also functioned as the catcher.

On Tuesday night, Ohtani will serve as the American League starting pitcher and leadoff hitter.

He'll prepare, he said, by "getting as much sleep as I can."

Monday's event produced 208 home runs, three of which exceeded the previous derby record of 513 feet, set by New York Yankees starAaron Judgein 2017. Statcast began tracking home run distances at the contest six years ago.

Ohtani hit 15 home runs that traveled 475-plus feet, and Soto hit one 520 feet into the third deck in right-center. Perez amassed 28 home runs, the most ever by a catcher, and he barely had a chance at advancing out of the first round; he lost to Alonso, who hit 35 home runs, third most in any derby round.

Three of the four first-round matchups went down to the wire. Oakland Athletics first baseman Matt Olson trailed Mancini by one, and his last swing produced a deep drive to right field that hooked foul. Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo, who got hot late, was one shy of tying Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story, but Gallo's last swing with time remaining produced a fly ball that fell shy of the center-field fence.

Story, who is expected to be traded before the end of the month, hit 12 second-round homers, a total that Mancini surpassed with relative ease. Alonso was one shy of tying Soto's second-round total of 15, then called timeout with a little over a minute left, declined a Gatorade, turned to hype up the crowd, continued to bop his head to the music and promptly hit two majestic home runs to advance into the final round.

The Mets first baseman gave off similar vibes all night.

Alonso expressed his desire to compete in the derby as far back as April, and he predicted he would win it the morning prior. He swung a bat that had his life story painted on it. And he made it a point to play legendary New York hip-hop artists Nas, Mobb Deep and Biggie throughout his rounds -- his way of honoring the city that, he said, "has treated me so well."

Alonso ultimately won the derby with a final-round total of 23 -- the same amount of home runs he hit to defeat Toronto Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero 2019, the last time the All-Star festivities took place.

Alonso joined Ken Griffey Jr. (1998-99) andYoenis Cespedes(2013-14) in winning consecutive titles.

"This is just surreal," Alonso said. "It's just truly a blessing."

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