All-Star Olson adds his name to Derby field

July 7th, 2021

HOUSTON -- Matt Olson’s earliest memory of watching an All-Star Home Run Derby dates back to the Sammy Sosa-Mark McGwire era, when the two sluggers went toe-to-toe in Atlanta a couple of decades ago.

As a youngster, Olson hoped he would someday have the opportunity to participate in this star-studded staple of All-Star Week. He can mark that off his bucket list after accepting Major League Baseball’s invitation to participate in this year’s Home Run Derby, slated for Monday, July 12 at Coors Field in Denver.

“It should just be fun,” Olson said on Tuesday, prior to the A’s series opener with the Astros at Minute Maid Park. “It’s something as a kid, you watch and think it would be cool to do someday. I don't know what my Home Run Derby talent is really like, but I know it'll be fun.”

Olson will attempt to become the third A’s player to win the Home Run Derby. Two years ago, teammate Matt Chapman was a late entrant into the Derby at Progressive Field, but he was outhomered by the Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the first round.

“It gives us another reason to watch at least another night of All-Star Week,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Guys that are around him, his teammates, know what kind of power he has. We certainly know he’s an All-Star. This kind of [hypes] it up for us to tune in and support our guy. We’re excited for him.”

Named to his first Midsummer Classic, Olson will compete against Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani, reigning champion Pete Alonso of the Mets, Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini, Rockies shortstop Trevor Story and Royals catcher Salvador Perez.

Olson said assistant hitting coach Eric Martins will be his Derby pitcher.

The A's have won the Home Run Derby three times, once by Mark McGwire in 1992 and in back-to-years by Yoenis Céspedes in 2013 and '14. If Olson should take home the trophy on Monday, Oakland would tie the Yankees for the most by a club with four.

The Derby is a spectacle every year, but given the venue, this one is of particular interest. Denver’s altitude, combined with batting practice-style pitches coming at some of the top hitters in baseball, should make for a high “scoring” affair.

“It’s a pretty intriguing place to go and have a Home Run Derby and try to hit some balls,” Melvin said. “The balls tend to be tailored, maybe more so, to the Derby as well. It’s nice hitting a home run -- it’s even nicer to see one go 500 feet. I think all these guys are looking forward to seeing how far they can hit.”

Said Olson: “I probably would have done it anywhere, [this] being the first time being asked. But Coors should have an extra element.”

This year, Olson is the leading masher on the A's, slugging .552 with 20 homers. The 27-year-old, whose career high for homers is 36 in 2019, has just one career blast in eight games at Coors Field.

He hopes to add a few more next week as he tests his home run chops against his fellow sluggers from around the league.

“It's something different that you don't typically do all the time, so I'm sure there will be butterflies,” Olson said. “But mainly excitement.”