Pete Alonsois officially a home run champion…
The 24-year-old part-Spanish American professional baseball player, a first baseman for the New York Mets, outslugged the Toronto Blue Jays‘ Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in a battle of rookies to win the Home Run Derby at Cleveland’s Progressive Field on Monday night.
Guerrero had broken the Derby’s single-round record in each of the first two rounds, but after surviving an exhausting duel with Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the semifinal round, Guerrero didn’t have enough to beat Alonso in the final.
The Blue Jays rookie, trying to follow in the footsteps of his Hall of Famefather, who won the event in San Francisco in 2007, went first in the final, and after initially struggling to duplicate his earlier pace, he picked it up after calling a second timeout and finished with 22 home runs.
Alonso, unique in the competition in sending most of his hits toward center field, then followed with 23 to spare to end it with plenty of time.
He became the first Met to win the event since Darryl Strawberrywas a co-champion in 1986.
“That was a blast. Oh my god, that was a blast,” Alonso said after his win. “I’m gonna remember that for the rest of my life.”
With the win came a cool $1 million bonus to supplement Alonso’s base salary of $555,000.
He said he would donate 10% of his winnings between two charities, the Wounded Warriors Projectand the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
“I have the utmost respect for the people that put their lives on the line every single day — and I just wanna show my gratitude, because a bad day for me is a lot different than a bad day for the servicemen and women that serve this country,” Alonso said.
Guerrero has eight major league home runs in his rookie year, and he hit 44 total homers in the minors. But at the Derby, he hit 91.
The biggest drama of the night came in the semifinal round, when he needed three tiebreakers to eliminate Pederson 40-39.
Before this year’s Derby, only six players had hit 40 home runs in an entire event, much less a single round.
“I feel bad for him,” an exhausted Pederson said after his final swing. “He’s gotta keep hitting; I’m toast.”
Pederson, who lost in the final as a rookie in 2015, now has the most combined home runs at the Derby all time, with 99, while Guerrero — in his first appearance — tied the previous record of 91 held by Todd Frazier, who also competed twice.Guerrero did have the honor of hitting the longest homer of the night, 488 feet, in the second round. That netted him a $100,000 bonus to go with his $500,000 for finishing second, which more than equals his season’s salary of $468