'It's going to be a show': Ozuna aiming to be Braves' 1st Derby champ

July 9th, 2024

PHOENIX -- The Big Bear will attempt to roar during this year’s T-Mobile Home Run Derby.

The Braves’ announced he will be one of the eight participants in next week’s Derby, which will air live on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET on July 15. This will be the first Home Run Derby for Ozuna, who earned his second career All-Star selection, and first since 2017, on Sunday.

"It's going to be a show," Ozuna said. "You're going to have fun no matter what, even if you lose."

The remainder of the eight-player field will be announced as this week progresses. Ozuna joins the Orioles’ Gunnar Henderson, the Mets’ Pete Alonso, the Phillies’ Alec Bohm and the Royals’ Bobby Witt Jr. as players who have committed to the event so far.

Braves bullpen catcher Jose Yepez will serve as Ozuna's pitcher during the Derby. Yepez usually throws to him during batting practice.

"I'm just going to have fun and compete," Ozuna said. "I told Yeppy to not get too excited, just throw it down the middle and I'm going to hit it anywhere."

Ozuna, tied for fourth in the Majors with 23 homers this year, has enjoyed a resurgence since a slow first month of last season, hitting 61 homers in 214 games since May 1, 2023. Shohei Ohtani (65) and Aaron Judge (63) are the only players who have hit more during that span.

Ozuna leads the Majors with 22 homers in Baseball Savant’s “Mostly Gone” category, which accounts for what would have been a home run in between eight and 29 stadiums. So, based on stadium dimensions, just one of Ozuna’s 23 home runs wouldn’t have been a homer in at least eight big league parks.

Ohtani leads MLB with 17 No Doubters, a category that accounts for what would have been a home run in all 30 parks. Ozuna is tied for 11th with nine such home runs.

The Braves have never had a player win the Home Run Derby. Ronald Acuña Jr. lost in the semifinals to Pete Alonso in 2019, and Alonso eliminated Acuña in the first round in 2022.

"I've been there before watching my teammates do it, so I just want to do it this year to see how cool it is going to be, especially for my kids," Ozuna said. "They want to have that experience and bring me some towels and waters."

This year’s Derby will follow a different format from previous years: The top four hitters from an eight-player pool will advance to the semifinals, which will be a bracket-style round determined by each participant’s Round 1 home run totals. The top two will then face off in the finals.

The first round and semifinals will last three minutes, with a maximum of 40 pitches thrown. Then, sluggers will get a bonus period that will go until three outs, with every pitch being either a home run or an out. A 425-foot homer in the bonus period unlocks a fourth out.

The finals will be a two-minute round, with a maximum of 27 pitches thrown. The same bonus rules apply. Hitters will also get one timeout in each round.