Derby sluggers embrace spacious Citi Field
Contestants set to put on show, raise money for numerous charities
NEW YORK -- The Citi Field dimensions were altered in 2012 to make the ballpark less punishing for power hitters, and the Queens conditions (i.e. 95-degree temperatures with high humidity) as players filtered in for Gatorade All-Star Workout Day on Monday were certainly ripe for hitters.
So while Citi Field might not be a perfect place to hold the Chevrolet Home Run Derby, there didn't seem to be too much concern among the event's eight participants about the specific setting.
"We'll see how it plays in batting practice, first and foremost," Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer said. "After that, we'll try and muscle up."
At the annual Home Run Derby news conference, it was suggested by host Karl Ravech that none of the eight members of the field -- Cuddyer, Mets third baseman David Wright, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, A's outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and defending Derby champ Prince Fielder of the Tigers -- have encountered a ballpark where they can't go deep, though Harper offered a quick objection.
"Miami," he said, matter of factly.
So it seems you can count Harper out if Marlins Park ever plays host to the Derby.
Citi Field, meanwhile, didn't seem to scare these guys.
"We all know that this is a big ballpark," said Cano, captain of the American League squad, "but you've just got to go out there and just try to put on a good show.
The Derby was set to be a good show for several good causes. The team with the highest homer tally will generate a $150,000 donation for the participant's charity of choice, and a $25,000 donation will be made to the charities chosen by the "losing" team. Both Cano and Wright, the National League captain, said they will split those donations evenly among the charities chosen by their Derby teammates. Wright said his share will go to the Children's Hospital near his native Virginia Beach, Va., while Cano was raising money for his RC 24 Foundation, which helps underserved kids in New York City and in his native Dominican Republic.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America and MLB's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program will also receive financial assistance via the Derby, which raised an all-time high of $615,000 last year. This year, Chevrolet and MLB will donate $23,000 to charity for every homer hit with a gold ball, which will be used when the players get down to their final out of each round.
"The charity is very generous," Wright said.
As for what the home run tally will be, well, there was particular curiosity over whether Fielder could defend his crown and join Ken Griffey Jr. as the only Derby participants to win three times or whether the Prince will be unseated in Queens. Davis was, naturally, a very popular pick to win the Derby by virtue of his 37 first-half homers, which tied an AL record.
"I don't feel like there's any pressure on me to win it," Davis said. "I think, just like everybody else, I want to put on a good show and I want the fans to really have a good time and enjoy it."
They were ready to put on a show for both the fans and their fellow All-Stars, who, for the third straight year, were encouraged to use social media stations set up on the field so that they could tweet their reactions and upload video they shoot from the event. The hashtag #HRDerby will be in use throughout the event.
Download the official MLB.com Home Run Derby Game, featuring 24 sluggers from the 2010-12 Home Run Derby events. Connect and challenge gamers on the worldwide leaderboards. Available for free on the Apple App Store.