(Cleveland) – I look forward to the MLB Home Run Derby every year.
My typical ritual for the past several years has been to grab a pizza, turn off my phone, hunker down in my television room with the big screen, and watch big home runs.
I’m usually alone because my wife is at church camp, and I take the evening off and have a “me night.”
But this year was different. It was in the Buckeye state. I had to go.
I traveled to Cleveland to take in the festivities of what I call one of the most entertaining events in all of sports.
Over the years, I have been blessed to attend major sporting events like the Indianapolis 500, the Super Bowl and the Final Four to name a few.
But there is something special about the Home Run Derby.
And this one will go down as one of the best.
In the end, Pete Alonso’s grit and determination vaulted him to claim the Home Run Derby Monday night at Progressive Field.
He outlasted Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s onslaught of monster dingers to win the title.
What a performance.
“I mean, it was special,” Alonso said after the contest. “I thought it was awesome, and everyone out there put on a show. It was fun for me to watch from the sidelines too.”
Alonso, the 24-year-old rookie first baseman for the New York Mets, like everyone at the park, was also amazed at the record-breaking performance Vlad put on the entire night.
At first, I felt like it was going to be the Vlad show. The slugger from Toronto set a record in the first round with 29 homers, and then he tied it the next time up.
The performance broke Josh Hamilton’s 2008 record of 28.
After Vlad advanced to the next round, the only player between him and the finals was Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
What an epic battle the two put on for the crowd. It was a like a boxing match as they exchanged blow for blow.
Pederson’s smooth stroke against Vlad’s violent cuts resulted in three overtime swing offs.
Pederson’s 39 dingers were not enough as Guerrero belted 40 to face Alonso for the trophy.
In the end, Vlad looked gassed as Alonso won the competition and demonstrated what sportsmanship is about.
Alonso hit 23 homers in the final round and beat Guerrero by one.
Although Guerrero smashed a record 91 home runs compared to Alonso’s 57, the Mets’ rookie made sure his name will be remembered for the right reasons.
Alonso earned a cool $1 million for his performance. He donated five percent to Tunnel of Towers, which supports military members and emergency medical workers, and five percent to the Wounded Warrior Project.
“It’s awesome to be able to help out great organizations,” he added. “But at the end of the day, the whole point of it is the bragging rights. For me, I want to compete and be the best. And yes, the money is fantastic, but for me, it’s all about pure competition.”
Until the new format took over, the Derby had a tendency to be a bit of a yawner at times. But the timer has added drama and excitement to the contest. It also keeps things moving as hitters cannot wait for the perfect pitch.
The battle between Guerrero and Pederson, followed by the excitement and enthusiasm displayed from Alonso, made the home run derby one for the ages.
Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at delduduit.com/blog and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.
His first book — BUCKEYE BELIEVER - 40 Days of Devotions for The Ohio State Faithful —can be purchased on Amazon.