Back in 2019, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. set a Home Run Derby record with 91 homers — and still came up short in the final round. Four years later, the Toronto Blue Jays superstar made it back, and this time he made sure he finished the job.
Guerrero Jr. was the last man-standing in a show-stopping 2023 Derby on Monday night, edging Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena in the final. But Vladito was far from the only story in an event that had a little bit of everything. Here’s everything you need to see:
Randy Arozarena rocks the cowboy boots
Cowboy boots have become something of a calling card of late for the Tampa Bay Rays outfielder, so you know they had to make an appearance during his first Derby. Sure enough, Arozarena treated Seattle to a fashion show during player introductions:
Arozarena entered as the fifth seed, with just (“just”) 16 homers in the first half, but he went bananas on Monday night. He especially caught fire in the semis against Luis Robert Jr., finishing his first three minutes with a whopping 30 homers. He wound up at 35, the fourth-highest round ever in a Derby, and while Guerrero Jr. got the trophy, Arozarena actually hit the most long balls on the night with 82. That’s the second-highest total of all-time, trailing only Guerrero Jr.’s 91 from 2019.
Adley Rutschman put on a switch-hitting show
The No. 8 seed and hardly known as a power hitter, Rutschman was probably the most slept-on player in the field. But the O’s catcher (and Oregon native) got the party started right at T-Mobile Park, crushing 11 homer in the final 79 seconds of regulation — and then flipping around to the right side and hitting seven more in extra time.
That put Rutschman at 27 for the round, which figured to be enough for an upset. Except, well ...
Luis Robert Jr. made it look easy
A lot of baseball fans may have been sleeping on Robert Jr. this season, given [gestures in the direction of the Chicago White Sox]. But the dynamic center-fielder entered as the top seed for a reason, and he showed everyone why with a jaw-dropping opening round. Robert Jr. made it look downright easy, swinging like he was going through the motions ... only to send a ball 450 feet. Robert Jr. hardly needed 10 seconds of extra time before hitting No. 28 and walking off into the semis:
Who knows, maybe it was the bat:
Julio makes history
Of course, while Guerrero Jr. got the win, it’s likely that Julio Rodriguez will be the one everyone remembers. The reigning AL Rookie of the Year burst onto the scene at the 2022 Derby, setting a new opening-round record with 32 dingers before eventually bowing out to Juan Soto in a scintillating final. In front of his home crowd on Monday night, he was determined to do one better — and he wasted no time going on an absolute rampage.
J-Rod made the Derby look like pop-a-shot, cranking out one homer after another at a dizzying pace. He ended regulation at 32, and with a full minute of bonus time to come, the all-time single-round record of 40 — set by, you guessed it, Guerrero Jr. in 2019 — was very much in play. And sure enough:
JULIO RODRIGUEZ PUT ON A SHOW— ESPN (@espn) July 11, 2023
41 home runs in the first round pic.twitter.com/JrI4Ajag0p
Somehow it’s even more ridiculous as a spray chart:
A look at Julio Rodríguez’s 42 homers from the first round, via Baseball Savant -- ALL to the pull side, and his longest was 452 feet. pic.twitter.com/30mCiDh4CC— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) July 11, 2023
Poor Pete Alonso, a two-time champion, never stood a chance. The crowd was electric:
41 HOMERS IN THE 1ST ROUND FOR JU-LIO ‼️— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) July 11, 2023
The most in any single round in Home Run Derby history! pic.twitter.com/58IKeWohKo
It was a feel-good moment, not only for one of the game’s brightest young stars but for a city that’s been desperate for a marquee athlete to embrace. Seattle loves Julio, and Julio loves them right back:
Julio Rodriguez bat flips the HR Derby pic.twitter.com/569Nyjf15D— CJ Fogler account may or may not be notable (@cjzero) July 11, 2023
Seattle is Julio's town— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 11, 2023
( : Alika Jenner) pic.twitter.com/wRrNyEUiRx
Heck, so does Kevin Durant:
Julio Rodriguez is ridiculous— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) July 11, 2023
At least Mookie Betts tried
Look, he tried to tell us. Betts was a bit of a surprise entrance in the Derby — sure, he’s a two-time MVP, but at 5’9 he’s not anyone’s idea of a slugger — and soon enough we got an explanation: His wife had put him up to it. Even weeks in advance, the Los Angeles Dodgers star was not optimistic:
“The goal now is not to come in last.” Mookie Betts confirms he’s participating in the Home Run Derby after being selected as an All-Star today. pic.twitter.com/IaX0dmZ0kh— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) June 29, 2023
Alas, Betts did indeed finish in last, putting up just 11 homers — six behind the next-lowest total in the first round. It was almost as if he physically could not force himself to not hit line drives, as he spent much of his three minutes peppering the gap in left-center with balls that would be doubles in a real game. Even when teammate J.D. Martinez pleaded with him to start hitting the ball in the air more, Betts wasn’t having it:
JD Martinez: "He's gotta hit it in the air to left"— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) July 11, 2023
Mookie: "I DON'T KNOW HOW" pic.twitter.com/6I4rF0qfnM
Mookie Betts: too good at real-life baseball for the Home Run Derby.
Vlad Guerrero Jr. finally gets his crown (and an awesome chain)
The Home Run Derby title had alluded Vladdy for years, but he finally got it done on Monday night — not with the sort of overwhelming barrage we’ve seen from him in the past, but with a steady, solid effort. Guerrero Jr. posted homer totals of 26, 21 and 25, never really getting on a roll but also avoiding a prolonged cold streak. He was lucky to draw Betts in the first round, then he took advantage of a winded Rodriguez in the semis and Arozarena in the final.
But still, it’s a richly deserved honor for one of the premier power hitters in the game, and it also made some history: Guerrero Jr. and his Hall of Fame dad are now the only father-son duo to each win a Derby, after pops took home the 2007 crown at San Francisco’s Oracle Park.
It also earned him some seriously cool swag — both a Derby jacket and a Mariners-inspired Derby chain, delivered by none other than Seattle icon Marshawn Lynch.
Longest homers of the night
In all, there were 341 home runs, blowing past the pregame total at DraftKings Sportsbook of 290.5. The longest home run came courtesy of Robert Jr., a whopping 484 feet.
The hardest hit ball was 113 miles per hour off the bat of Alonso. The longest average distance was Alonso’s 419 feet. The entire field averaged 105.1 miles per hour on homers and 407 feet per home runs.
The total distance traveled, per Statcast, was 26.3 miles of home runs.