Pete Alonso to defend HR Derby crown

June 23rd, 2021

NEW YORK -- After putting on one of the most spectacular shows in the history of the Home Run Derby two years ago, is returning to defend his crown.

The Mets first baseman announced on Instagram on Wednesday that he’ll participate in his second career Derby next month in Denver after winning his first one in 2019. MLB did not hold a Home Run Derby last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making Alonso the defending champion for this year’s event at Coors Field.

The Derby will take place on Monday, July 12.

“I’m back,” Alonso wrote in an Instagram post featuring him hitting home runs with a polar bear head superimposed over his face.

Two years ago at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Alonso outslugged Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 23-22, in the final round to capture the Derby title, becoming the second rookie after the Yankees' Aaron Judge (2017) to win the event. Alonso's 57 total homers were the fourth most in Derby history.

"I had so much fun during the first one, so I was like, 'You know what? Let's do it again,'" Alonso said on Wednesday. "I just had a blast."

The 26-year-old first baseman will be joined in this year’s Derby by Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani, who has an MLB-high-tying 23 homers on the season. Fernando Tatis Jr. said he is “50-50” on whether he will participate. Guerrero, who is tied with Ohtani for the league lead in homers, is reportedly opting out this year.

Although Alonso entered Wednesday with just 11 home runs this year, which is tied for 61st in the Majors, he’ll be a threat at Coors Field, where he’s homered three times in six career games. Because he is the defending champion, Alonso will also be the top seed regardless of his current homer total.

"I'd love to do it again," Alonso said, "and I'd love to win it again."

Only three players have won the Derby at least twice: Yoenis Céspedes (2013, '14), Prince Fielder (2009, '12) and Ken Griffey Jr. (1994, '98 and '99). Griffey won the event at Coors Field in '98, the last time Colorado hosted the All-Star Game. Alonso, who estimates he took “over 600, 700 swings” including his prep work during the last Derby, says he has learned how to conserve his energy.

“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.”

Overall this season, Alonso is batting .250 with a .784 OPS in 58 games. He leads the Mets in home runs and, while he ranks sixth in All-Star voting among National League first basemen, he does not need to make the team to participate in the Derby.

Alonso is also confident the Derby will not mess with his swing, as many feared it would when he slumped following the 2019 All-Star Game. Asked if he was concerned about injury, Alonso replied simply: “Oh, I’m not going to get hurt.”

He will make one change to his Derby preparation, however, inviting Mets bench coach Dave Jauss to pitch rather than his cousin, Derek Morgan, an Ohio native who threw to him two years ago in Cleveland. Jauss regularly throws BP to Mets hitters before games.

“I’m excited to have Jauss and to be able to experience it with someone here in-house and the Mets, it’s going to be really special,” Alonso said. “In Cleveland, it was absolutely surreal with my cousin, and that’s going to be a highlight of mine forever. I’m really, really thankful for that opportunity and that chance we got to win.”