Peanut butter and jelly. Burgers and fries. The Home Run Derby and Coors Field.
Some things are indelible on their own but pretty much perfect in a particular pairing. So it is with this alignment of event and environment that arrives with Monday’s T-Mobile Home Run Derby at the famously homer-helpful home of the Colorado Rockies.
This All-Star Game appetizer, to be broadcast at 8 p.m. ET Monday on ESPN, will feature the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, the Mets’ Pete Alonso, the Rockies’ Trevor Story, the Nationals’ Juan Soto, the Rangers’ Joey Gallo, the Orioles’ Trey Mancini, the A’s Matt Olson and the Royals’ Salvador Perez taking aim at the Majors’ most notoriously hitter-friendly ballpark. And with the Derby once again utilizing a variation of the fantastic format first instituted in 2015, they’ll be doing it on the clock.
In recent Derbies, we’ve seen Todd Frazier (2015 at Great American Ball Park), Giancarlo Stanton ('16 at Petco Park), Aaron Judge ('17 at Marlins Park) and Bryce Harper (’18 at Nationals Park) validate the use of timed rounds with epically entertaining performances featuring buzzer beaters and frantic feats of strength. And the 2019 semifinals slugfest between Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Joc Pederson -- before Alonso wound up beating Guerrero in the finals -- was an all-timer.
Here's what’s on tap in the 2021 Derby:
Where can I tune in?
ESPN will exclusively televise the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on Monday, July 12th at 8:00 p.m. (ET). Additionally, ESPN2 will offer a Statcast-driven alternate viewing experience for the Derby alongside the traditional telecast. The event is also available on ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes and the ESPN App.
What are the key storylines?
Because the Derby (like the All-Star Game) did not take place in 2020, Alonso is the defending champ. And where some players shy away from the Derby stage entirely or bow out after one appearance, Alonso has made his genuine excitement for this event well-known. He’ll be using custom-painted Derby bats as he looks to become just the fourth player to win the Derby at least twice (joining Yoenis Céspedes, Prince Fielder and Ken Griffey Jr.).
“I know a lot of guys get affected by the high altitude, but for me, I love it,” Alonso said. “I love it out in Colorado. I usually spend some time out West in the offseason, so I know what the altitude’s going to be like, and I’m going to be hopefully ready to compete and take another chain home.”
And yet the headliner here has to be Ohtani, whose incredible two-way talent has made for a truly historic first half. For Ohtani, who won the Nippon Professional Baseball Home Run Derby in 2016, to become the first Japanese player in the Derby a day before becoming the first player to serve as both a pitcher and a position player in the All-Star Game is an ambitious undertaking. It will be fascinating to see if he can rise to the challenge.
“I always wanted to see a Japanese player participate in the Home Run Derby, and it happens to be me,” Ohtani told reporters through an interpreter. “So I’m really excited.”
The entire baseball industry is excited to see Mancini participate in this event, roughly 16 months after he was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer at the tender age of 27. Having already overcome that daunting diagnosis to make it back to the big league stage this season, it would surprise nobody if Mancini overcomes this deep Derby field, too.
Beyond Alonso, Ohtani and Mancini, this Derby also features a hometown hero in Story, who has a .612 career slugging percentage at Coors. It includes one of the game’s most brilliant young players in Soto and one of its most prodigious power threats in Gallo. It’s a chance for a wider audience to get to know the A’s elite first baseman Olson and to salute the still-lively bat of seven-time All-Star Perez.
Then there’s the ballpark itself, which just might super-size this extravaganza.
How are the seeds decided?
The seeds were determined by the participants’ 2021 home run totals entering Wednesday’s play. Tiebreakers were determined by 2020 home run totals.
So, the matchups (with applicable homer totals in parentheses) are as follows:
No. 1 Ohtani (31) vs. No. 8 Soto (10)
No. 2 Gallo (21) vs. No. 7 Story (11)
No. 3 Olson (20) vs. No. 6 Mancini (15)
No. 4 Perez (20) vs. No. 5 Alonso (15)
Ties were broken by awarding the higher seed to the player with a higher home run total in 2020. However, since Mancini did not play in 2020, the tie between him and Alonso was broken using 2019 home run totals.
What is the format?
It's a single-elimination bracket system with three rounds total. In each bracket, the higher seed hits second.
Batters will have three minutes per round in the first and second rounds and two minutes in the final round. The clock starts with the release of the first pitch, and the round ends when the timer strikes zero. A homer will count so long as the pitch was released prior to the timer hitting zero.
It should be noted that once the second player in a given round exceeds the home run total of his opponent, the round ends. There is no need for a player to add to his tally.
After the first round, the winner of the Ohtani-Soto matchup will meet the winner of Perez-Alonso. On the other side of the bracket, the Gallo-Story winner faces the Olson-Mancini winner. The two players left standing will meet in the final round.
Will participants receive or earn bonus time?
Yes, 30 seconds of bonus time will be granted to each batter at the conclusion of each regulation period. A hitter can earn an additional 30 seconds of bonus time -- giving him 60 seconds total -- if he hits at least one homer that equals or exceeds 475 feet (tracked by MLB’s Statcast powered by Google Cloud) in the regulation period.
The bonus period, be it 30 seconds or 60 seconds, is a single time segment, with no timeouts. During the bonus period, a special T-Mobile magenta ball will be used.
Can players stop the clock?
Yes, each batter is entitled to one 45-second timeout in each of the three regulation periods. Timeouts cannot be called during the bonus periods.
En route to his 2019 triumph, Alonso used the timeout to great effect in the semifinals against Ronald Acuña Jr. More than halfway through the round, he had just seven homers to Acuña’s 19, but he regrouped after the brief break to blast his way past his Braves opponent and advance.
How are ties broken?
Ties in any round will be broken by a 60-second swing-off with no stoppage of time or additional time added. If a tie remains after the swing-off, batters will engage in successive three-swing swing-offs until there is a winner.
The Derby had its first swing-off in 2019, in the aforementioned Guerrero-Pederson duel. They hit eight homers apiece in the 60-second swing-off, then one apiece in the first three-swing swing-off. Finally, in the third tiebreaker, Guerrero hit two long balls, and a gassed Pederson came up just short at one.
Will the Coors Field humidor be used?
Because dried-out baseballs carry further, the Rockies began storing balls in a humidor in 2002 to reduce their arid climate’s effects on run-production. But in the Home Run Derby, the more dingers, the better. So no, the balls used in the Derby will not be stored in the humidor prior to the event.
Is money on the line in the Derby?
As part of a multifaceted new agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association prior to the 2019 season, the Home Run Derby prize pool was increased from $725,000 to $2.5 million. The winner takes home a cool $1 million of that total.
How can fans get involved?
The T-Mobile Home Run Derby Bracket Challenge gives fans a chance to predict the results of the Derby. Fans can enter at mlb.com/bracket. One perfect bracket will win $100,000, with additional prizes including a new T-Mobile device and one year of T-Mobile service. Fans can submit their picks through 7:59 p.m. (ET) on Monday.