Ronald Acuna Jr. Wins MLB’s National League Hank Aaron Award

Ronald Acuna Jr. has picked up another prestigious honor…

The 25-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball outfielder for the Atlanta Braves has won the 2023 Hank Aaron Awards on Saturday, presented by Major League Baseball (MLB) to the most outstanding offensive performer in each league.

Ronald Acuña Jr.,The MLB award is picked by fan balloting combined with votes from a panel of Hall of Famers and former winners, a group that this year included Johnny Bench, Craig Biggio, Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Pedro Martínez, Eddie Murray, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, John Smoltz and Robin Yount.

Acuna was a unanimous winner of his first National League MVP after becoming the first big leaguer with 40 homers and 70 stolen bases in a season.

Acuna was second in the NL with a .336 batting average for the Braves and led the major leagues with 149 runs, 217 hits, 386 total bases and 73 stolen bases while hitting 41 home runs with 106 RBI.

Shohei Ohtani, meantime, won the American League’s Hank Aaron Award.

The pair also won Most Valuable Player awards last month in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Ohtani was the first two-time unanimous MVP.

Every team nominated candidates for the Aaron awards and a group of writers picked nine finalists in each league. The awards were introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth‘s career home run record.

Félix Hernández Inducted into Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame

Félix Hernández is forever a Mariner

The 37-year-old Venezuelan former professional baseball pitcher, nicknamed “King Félix“, was inducted into the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

Félix HernándezHernandez walked from the bullpen as Aloe Blacc‘s song “The Man,” bellowed through the speakers. He stood on the rubber at the top of the mound, put his arms out to his side and mouthed “this is my house.”

For this night, Hernández once again commanded T-Mobile Park.

“This is not easy for me,” Hernández said, pausing during his speech. “Pitching and being there on that mound is way easier than this.”

Hernández became the 11th person to be honored by the franchise but few have a connection that runs as deep. Hernández pitched his entire 15-year career with the Mariners. He made 418 career starts, struck out 2,524 batters and threw the only perfect game in franchise history.

He was saddled with some underachieving teams during his career and his turn on the mound was one of the few reasons to regularly watch or show up.

When Hernández pitched, it was an experience. The yellow-shirted “King’s Court” was part of Hernandez’s starts at home beginning in 2011 and continuing through his last start in 2019. Fans showed up in costumes fit for royalty and chanted “K” every time there was a chance at adding another strikeout to that career total.

Those fans were back in their royal costumes and yellow shirts Saturday, and broke out a few “K” chants during his ceremony.

“I want to thank the entire Seattle Mariners organization, ownership, and staff. I’m blessed by the opportunity to play my entire career here with the Seattle Mariners,” Hernández said. “You guys took a chance on me in 2002 … out of Venezuela, just 16 years old and you stood by my side ever since.”

While the other members of the Mariners Hall of Fame in attendance — including Ichiro Suzuki, Edgar Martinez and Ken Griffey Jr. — sat in padded folding chairs, Hernández sat on the throne that was always positioned outside the King’s Court during his starts on the mound.

Hernández unsuccessfully tried to fight off tears throughout the ceremony. And he received a surprise when former teammate, regular foe and close friend Adrian Beltre made an appearance. The matchups between Beltre and Hernández were among the most entertaining in the game when they faced off as opponents.

“It’s a truly honor. The Mariners, T-Mobile Park and to Seattle, you will always be a part of my heart and my home,” Hernández said.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Homers in First At-Bat Following Home Run Derby Win

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is still swinging them out of the park…

The 24-year-old Canadian-Dominican professional baseball first baseman and Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter’s Home Run Derby continued on Friday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.,Guerrero became the first Derby champion to go deep in his first plate appearance after the MLB All-Star break as Toronto opened the second half of the season with its sixth win in seven games.

Brandon Belt drove in the tiebreaking run in the seventh inning, Matt Chapman had three hits and an RBI and Whit Merrifield drove in two runs as the Blue Jays won 7-2 to move to 17-7 against National League opponents.

Guerrero won the MLB All-Star Home Run Derby in Seattle on Monday night, matching his father Vladimir Guerrero Sr.‘s 2007 title to become the first father-son duo to accomplish the feat. The younger Guerrero is also the first Blue Jays player to win a Home Run Derby crown.

On Friday night, Guerrero led off the second inning with a 426-foot drive off Arizona starter Ryne Nelson for his 14th home run.

He is the fifth Derby winner to homer in his first game back, joining Prince Fielder (2009), Ryan Howard (2006), Ken Griffey Jr. (1998) and Tino Martinez (1997).

Guerrero connected on a 2-2 slider from Nelson.

“It just kind of slipped out of my hand, popped a little bit, right where he wants it,” Nelson said. “Right there, that’s a pitch I have to execute and not leave it over the plate.”

Toronto is 51-41, a season-best 10 games above .500.

“I liked the way we played,” Guerrero said through an interpreter. “We’re going to continue to play with the same intensity. It’s excellent right now.”

Pete Alonso to Vie for Third Title at This Year’s MLB All-Star Home Run Derby

Pete Alonso is gunnin’ for a triple crown…

The 28-year-old part-Spanish American professional baseball player and New York Mets first baseman will participate in the MLB All-Star Home Run Derby on July 10 in Seattle, as he looks to win the title for the third time.

Pete Alonso“I’m stoked,” Alonso said after hitting his 25th homer Sunday night in New York’s 8-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants. “It’s a really fun event. The field is extremely talented and I think this is going to be a derby that a lot of people are going to remember for a long time.”

Alonso was selected to his third MLB All-Star team earlier in the day, and New York’s lone representative on the National League squad will take part in the derby for the fourth time.

He joins a field so far that also includes Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena, Los Angeles Dodgers star Mookie Betts, Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Seattle Mariners outfielder Julio Rodríguez.

Alonso won the competition in 2019 and 2021. Ken Griffey Jr. (1998-99) and Yoenis Céspedes (2013-14) are the only other back-to-back champions in the history of the event, which began in 1985.

The 2020 edition was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his rookie season, Alonso edged Guerrero 23-22 in the final round with just seconds to spare to claim a $1 million prize.

Two years later, Alonso hit 74 homers at Coors Field in Colorado and won the derby by edging Trey Mancini in the finals.

Last year at Dodger Stadium, Alonso topped Atlanta Braves star Ronald Acuña Jr. in the first round before losing 31-23 to Rodríguez in the semifinals.

Alonso is hitting .221 with 25 homers and 58 RBIs in 76 games this season. He missed 10 games with a bruised left wrist but made a speedy return from the injury.

“I thought that the derby wasn’t necessarily the biggest priority when I was coming back from the wrist,” Alonso said. “It was trying to come back and be as productive as I can for my team. If I’m able to play a game, I’m definitely going to be able to take batting practice. So for me the biggest concern was getting back to the team. The derby for me is a happy bonus.”

“Long Gone Summer” Documentary, Highlighting Sammy Sosa’s 1998 Home Run Chase, Headed to ESPN

Sammy Sosa’s summeris heating up…

The 51-year-old Dominican former professional baseball right fielder will be the focus of a special documentary to air on ESPN.

Sammy Sosa

Sosa, who played in the Major League Baseballfor 19 seasons, primarily with the Chicago Cubs, is part of the focus of AJ Schnack’s, Long Gone Summer, an official selection of the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival.

It chronicles Mark McGwire and Sosa’s storied 1998 home run chase. For the first time, both men discuss that summer at length, including its undeniable complications.

The 1998MLB home run chase was between McGwire, a first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Seattle Mariners’ Ken Griffey Jr., and Sosa, a right fielder for the Cubs. It resulted in McGwire and Sosa breaking Roger Maris‘ long-standing and highly coveted record of 61 home runs. 

McGwire broke Maris’s record on September 8 against the Cubs and finished with 70 home runs. Sosa finished with 66.

The documentary will air on Sunday, June 14 at 9:00 pm ET.

The film will be made available on ESPN+immediately after its premiere, along with the rest of the 30 for 30 library.

Martinez’s No. 11 to be Retired by the Seattle Mariners

Edgar Martinez is keeping his number forever…

The Seattle Mariners’ team president Kevin Mather has announced plans to retire the 54-year-old Puerto Rican former Major League Baseball designated hitter and third baseman and current hitting coach of the Mariners’ No. 11.

Edgar Martinez

Martinez’s number will be retired on August 12 as part of a weekend celebration.

He’ll become just the second player in club history to have his number retired, joining Ken Griffey Jr., whose No. 24 was retired by the club last year after Griffey’s Hall of Fame induction.

Mariners  ownership had started discussions of whether it was time to consider giving Martinez the ultimate honor from the franchise, but when he made a significant jump in the Hall of Fame voting this year, trending toward potential induction, it became an easy decision to retire Martinez’s No. 11.

Even though Cooperstown is still just a possibility for Martinez, the club decided now was the right time even if it meant special approval from ownership.

“I was surprised. I knew that the Mariners had these policies about retiring numbers and I didn’t expect it, so I was surprised,” Martinez said.

The Mariners have strict guidelines for number retirement that allow for the honor only if a player has been elected to the Hall of Fame or has come close to election. Griffey was — and should have been — the first Mariners player to have his number retired. And it makes sense for Martinez to be the second, especially after receiving nearly 59 percent of the vote in Hall of Fame balloting this year.

The Mariners also hope — however ceremonial — that the number retirement may boost Martinez’s Hall of Fame chances. Last week, Martinez was named on 58.6 percent of ballots when results of Hall of Fame voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America were announced. It was a major jump that set the stage for Martinez to potentially become the first player who was primarily a designated hitter to be voted into the Hall of Fame.

Martinez has two years of eligibility remaining on the ballot.

“It was a conversation that we had and then when the (Hall of Fame) vote came out, it was a relatively quick call,” Mather said. “Our board of directors had to approve it and it was a relatively easy answer once he got over 50 percent.”

No player aside from Griffey connected with Seattle like Martinez. While Griffey was the undisputed star of baseball for most of the 1990s, Martinez was nearly his equal while hitting in the same lineup. The difference is while Griffey was Seattle’s first star, Martinez was the star that never left.

He spent all 18 of his major league seasons with the Mariners and returned during the summer of 2015 as the club’s hitting coach. He is regarded as one of the best right-handed hitters of his generation, finishing his career with a .312 batting average with 309 career home runs and 1,219 career RBI. He added a .418 on-base percentage and .515 slugging percentage to his other batting numbers and twice led the American League in batting average and doubles.

“That will be special to see my number is going to be next to Junior’s, one of the greatest players to play the game … also next to the great Jackie Robinson,” Martinez said. “That’s amazing. That’s something I never could expect looking back at my career.”

Cespedes Wins the Home Run Derby Crown for Second Straight Year

Yoenis Cespedes’ reign at the Home Run Derby continues…

The 28-year-old Cuban baseball star, an outfielder for the Oakland Athletics, has become the first repeat winner of the All-Star skills contest in 15 years.

Yoenis Cespedes

Cespedes powered his way past the Cincinnati RedsTodd Frazier 9-1 in the final round Monday night to successfully defend his title.

Ken Griffey Jr. was the last back-to-back winner, taking the title in 1998 and 1999.

With a serious, determined look on his face the entire time, Cespedes finished with 28 homers. That was four fewer than last year, when he beat the Washington NationalsBryce Harper 9-8 in the final round.

Cespedes even told Athletics teammate Josh Donaldson he was doing this wrong.

“I knew he wasn’t going to win because his mentality was to take the ball out of the stadium, and I told him that is not the way you win this competition,” Cespedes said through an interpreter.

He added: “I’m somebody who’s very conscious of the power that I have. So I don’t need to put more of a swing or more of an effort in order to hit a home run. I just have to look for a good pitch and put a good swing on it, and it usually takes care of it.”

Cespedes saved his best for last, a 452-foot blast to the third deck above left field that officially measured as the longest shot of the night.

A’s third-base coach Mike Gallego again pitched to Cespedes, who went deep 32 times in last year’s derby at Citi Field in New York. Gallego’s arm looked nearly out of gas by the final round.

“Maybe next year I’ll put up a better showing at the end,” Frazier said. “Now that I understand, maybe I’ll do a couple of more push-ups.”

Cespedes topped Toronto’s Jose Bautista and Frazier surprisingly beat Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton in the semifinals.