Schwarber bested by childhood nemesis in 2nd Derby

A Reds fan growing up, slugger loses to Cardinals icon he grew up watching

July 19th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- Phillies outfielder Kyle Schwarber entered the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on Monday night as the top seed and one of its favorites. He fell victim to an upset for the ages -- but there's certainly no shame in falling to one of the sport's all-time legends.

Schwarber dropped his first-round matchup to Albert Pujols, the surefire Hall of Famer competing in his final Home Run Derby. After a swing-off, Pujols defeated Schwarber, 20-19.

“It was a lot of fun,” Schwarber said. “We were competing, and if I was going to get knocked out by someone, I'm happy it was him.”

A 29-year-old native of Middletown, Ohio, Schwarber grew up a Reds fan, going to games at Great American Ball Park. Pujols, who played for the Cardinals for most of Schwarber’s childhood, became something of a regular nemesis.

Asked for his memories of Pujols, Schwarber said, tongue in cheek: “Well, I got to watch him absolutely destroy the Reds growing up, so that was always fun.”

During Monday afternoon’s media availability, Schwarber said the chance to compete against Pujols was “the childhood dream.” It probably didn’t quite unfold the way Schwarber dreamt it would, though.

Both Schwarber and Pujols finished their initial rounds with 13 home runs. Schwarber had a very brief chance to defeat Pujols in regulation. But he couldn’t do so. The contest went to a minute-long swing-off, during which time Pujols launched seven homers and Schwarber tallied six.

“I was just trying to find it the whole time and just couldn't get in the groove,” Schwarber said. “But it is what it is. I had the opportunity there at the end. He racked off a pretty good last minute there in that swing-off. And I just wasn't able to get it done.”

The Derby featured its share of Schwarbombs nonetheless. The Phillies’ slugger launched five homers of at least 440 feet, easily accruing the full bonus minute for hitting two balls beyond that distance. His most prodigious blast was a 470-foot moonshot to right-center in the early stages of his round. In total, Schwarber racked up 1.51 miles worth of home runs on Monday night.

It wasn’t quite up to the standard he set during his first Derby in 2018. That time, Schwarber reached the championship round, only to lose to his current teammate, Bryce Harper, in a final-round slugfest, 19-18. Coincidentally, Schwarber actually knocked out the Phillies’ rep that year, Rhys Hoskins, in the semifinal round. No Phillie has reached the Derby finals since Bobby Abreu and Ryan Howard won back-to-back Derbies in 2005-06.

Schwarber said he plans to frame an image of himself and Pujols competing from this year’s derby -- and he said it’ll stay on his wall “for a long time.” In the end, Schwarber couldn’t help but appreciate the moment, despite the defeat.

“As a kid, that's the Machine,” Schwarber said. “You go to games, and you try and go sit out in the bleachers so you can catch one of his homers. It was a pretty surreal moment.”