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Latinos Represent In 2023 T-Mobile Home Run Derby

Julio Rodríguez in 2023 T-Mobile Home Run Derby - Image Credit: MLB Network/Twitter

LEGIT MOONSHOTS! A record-breaking number of home runs were hit last night in the 2023 T-Mobile Home Run Derby at T-Mobile Park in Seattle — approximately 341 home runs, traveling at a combined distance of over 26 miles. 

‘Two Cuban Rockets’ Open Up The Derby

To start off the HR Derby festivities, Randy Arozarena and Adolis García, a pair of ‘Cuban Rockets,’ and former teammates in the Cardinals farm system (2017-2019), slugged a combined total of 41 home runs. 

Ultimately, Arozarena, who is close friends with García, naming him the godfather of his daughter, won 24-17 and advanced to the second round — becoming the first Rays player in franchise history to win a derby round. 

Oh My Adley! 

Adley Rutschman, Baltimore’s star-studded switch-hitting catcher, began the first round batting from the left-side, and was given an additional 30-seconds based on the events rules (each participant was given the extra 30-seconds). Leading up to the extra-time, Rutschman, decided to flip to the right-side of the plate and clobbered the next seven out of eight pitches into oblivion. 

“It was kinda just on the fly,” Rutschman said of his first round philosophy. “We were debating on if I should do it or not.” 

All together, the 25-year-old totaled 27 home runs in the first round, but fell short to Cuban-slugger Luis Robert Jr. by one single homer. 

Juan Soto and Bo Bichette Take Over ESPN Broadcast

Throughout the first round showdown between Blue Jays Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Dodgers Mookie Betts, Juan Soto and Bo Bichette took to the ESPN microphone and had themselves a joyous time! Bichette, a pure ‘Major League Motivator,’ alongside Soto, went back and forth with TV broadcasters Karl Ravech and Eduardo Pérez, in giving advice to Vladdy Jr. 

And so be it, the advice worked! Guerrero Jr. advanced to the second round, defeating Betts by a final score of 26-11. 

The Rematch: Alonso vs. J-Rod in Julio’s Yard

In his month, in his home ballpark of Seattle, the J-Rod Show, Julio Rodríguez, carried the monumental crowd of 46,952 behind him, hitting 41 home runs — the most-ever in a single round in HR Derby history, and defeated NY Mets Pete Alonso for the second consecutive HR derby (final score: 41-21). 

“It was electric,” Rodríguez said. “Just like the fact that we’re out here and the whole crowd was into it and they were supporting me, all that. I feel like it meant the world for me, I really enjoyed it and I hope they enjoyed it too.”

LATINO-FILLED SEMI-FINAL ROUND

Randy Land Shifts From Tampa Bay to Seattle

All the momentum Arozarena had from previous postseasons, this year’s edition of the World Baseball Classic, and the first round of the Derby, was on full display in the second round as the 28-year-old obliterated 35 home runs. 

His opponent, fellow Cuban, of the Chicago White Sox, Robert Jr. compiled 22 home runs in the Semi-Final Round and 50 on the night. 

“Just being here, I feel like I’m a winner already,” Arozarena said leading up to the Championship round while enjoying the night with his daughter and loved-ones.

Vladdy Jr. Defeats Hometown Favorite J-Rod

As I recently mentioned, a HR Derby matchup between Guerrero Jr. and J-Rod would be quite the firework show for fans in the Dominican Republic — the two young phenoms were toe-to-toe all round long until Guerrero Jr. picked up a full head of steam and prevailed by one home run (Final Score: 21-20). 

Rodríguez, age 22, the next up and coming face of Major League Baseball, who is also an ambassador for this year’s All-Star festivities, made the night memorable for all of Seattle faithful and baseball fans watching from across the globe. On numerous occasions, the whole stadium chanted ‘Julio, Julio, Julio!’ 

And as it goes on a social media scale? J-Rod made headlines across the sports world with athletes expressing their thoughts on his performance over Twitter:

CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 

Guerrero Jr. and Arozarena Battle for 2023 HR Derby Crown, Seattle Chain + $1,000,000

The main event, Goliath vs. Goliath, Vladdy Jr. vs. Arozarena — what a turnout for Major League Baseball once again, marking back-to-back HR Derby Championship Rounds that featured all Latino players (Julio Rodríguez vs. Juan Soto* in 2022 at Dodger Stadium and this year’s Final in the Emerald City). 

Randy Arozarena holding his daughter while Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and him share a moment during 2023 HR Derby – Image Credit: Toronto Blue Jays/MLB

Guerrero Jr., with the support of Bichette and Soto remaining throughout the night, went deep 25 times in the Final Round — the most-ever hit by one player in the Championship Round of a HR Derby. 

Then came Arozarena, who many have deemed a superhero when pressure comes about, smashing 21 home runs in the first two minutes before the additional 30 seconds. The magic number to seal the HR Derby victory was five and four to tie, but he ultimately fell short by hitting two home runs in the final 30 ticks of the clock (Final Score: 25-23). 

Randy Arozarena in 2023 Home Run Derby – Image Credit: Tampa Bay Rays/MLB

Overall, Arozarena, the superhero, finished with 82 home runs on the night — the second-most in a single HR Derby, only behind Guerrero Jr. in 2019.  

Now, you would think Arozarena would be deflated from losing; however it was the complete opposite… 

Guerrero Jr., the 2023 HR Derby Champion immediately ran up to Arozarena and the two Latino All-Stars, struck the Cuban-Mexican’s famous pose in unison.

A celebratory moment for both individuals on the national stage. 

“We gave all we had,” Guerrero Jr. said. “I mean, it’s not easy. Some people think that it is easy, but, I mean, swinging hard for three minutes, I mean it’s going to take a lot from you. I mean, not just Julio and Randy, I would say everyone. Everyone that participated in the Derby gave all they got and just to put on a good show for everyone.”

All in all, a beautiful moment for the Dominican Republic and Latinos watching from around the world. 

VLADDY JR. DEEMED 2023 HR DERBY KING 

Guerrero Jr., and his father Vladimir Guerrero Sr., who won the HR Derby title in 2007, became the first father-son duo to achieve the feat. 

When asked, who would win a HR Derby between him and his father in his prime? “Well, it’s kind of difficult right now. If it’s with the timer, with the minutes, I’ll win. If it’s by outs, he’ll win.”

About the Home Run Derby Jacket? 

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. wearing Home Run Derby Jacket – Image Credit: MLB/Twitter

“We just decided to do something different for the Derby. As you guys can tell, we got everybody on the back of the jacket, all the last names. So it means like, everybody was part of it. Something just to put on, add something fun to the Derby.”

Thoughts on Back-to-Back Dominican Players winning the HR Derby? Soto in 2022 and Guerrero Jr. in 2023!

Juan Soto, the 2022 HR Derby King and 2021 NL Latino MVP – Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

“I didn’t know about that, but I’m feeling very, very happy about that, very proud. Like I always say, I really believe that when you work very hard, it pays off.”

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the 2023 Home Run Derby King and 2021 AL LatinoMVP – Image Credit: MLB/Twitter

Robert Rizzo is a journalist and co-editor of Latino Sports – Email: RobertRiz994@gmail.com

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Julio Pabón

    July 11, 2023 at 11:28 am

    Great coverage of the 2023 MLB Home Run Derby

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