3-Pete? 2-time Derby winner Alonso back for '22

July 12th, 2022

When asked, Pete Alonso tends to wax poetic about the Home Run Derby, calling it one of the finest nights of the Major League Baseball calendar. He has been obsessed with the Derby since he was a kid, typically staying up long past his bedtime to watch.

Alonso has since become one of the best to do it, last year joining Ken Griffey Jr. and Yoenis Céspedes as the only Derby winners who managed to defend their titles. So it’s no surprise that the Mets' first baseman will return to defend his crown again this year in Los Angeles, announcing on Monday his plans to participate in the July 18 event at Dodger Stadium.

“I don’t think anyone has more fun than I do, especially when it comes to this event,” Alonso said. “I’m just really, really excited for it.”

Alonso was the first confirmed participant for the 2022 T-Mobile Home Run Derby, which will air at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. -- whom Alonso vanquished en route to his 2019 Derby title -- announced his participation later Monday afternoon, followed later in the evening by announcements from Albert Pujols and Juan Soto. Another NL East rival announced his plans on Tuesday, with the Phillies' Kyle Schwarber joining the Derby fray.

The 27-year-old’s Derby legend began in 2019 in Cleveland, where he hit 57 home runs over three rounds to win his first title. Knocking off fellow superstars Acuña and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the process, Alonso overcame Guerrero’s cartoonish total of 69 homers over the first two rounds to upend him in the finals.

Two years later, following a pandemic season in which there was no All-Star Game, Alonso defended his title at Coors Field in Colorado. This time, he hit 74 homers over three rounds, including a 509-foot shot to open the finals against Trey Mancini. With that, his legacy as one of the most dynamic Derby participants in history was secure, as Alonso himself noted when he called himself “the best power hitter on the planet.”

Now, Alonso has a chance to accomplish something that no Major League slugger has. When Griffey attempted to defend his back-to-back titles in 2000, Sammy Sosa bested him in the finals to spoil that bid. (Griffey had won his first Derby in 1994, making him the only three-time winner in the event’s history.) In 2015, Céspedes declined to defend his back-to-back titles because he did not make the All-Star team.

“That would be sick,” Alonso said of his potential three-peat. “But I’m just going to be out there having a ton of fun, showcasing what I’ve got and competing.”

Although there is no rule stating that a slugger must be an All-Star to participate in the Derby, Alonso had said he would only do so if he made the NL team. He subsequently lost the starting first-base nod to St. Louis’ Paul Goldschmidt, but Alonso became one of four Mets to make the team when full rosters were announced on Sunday.

Now a two-time All-Star, Alonso is committed to defending his Home Run Derby crown against a field that should include some of the game’s top sluggers. Entering Monday’s play, Alonso’s total of 23 home runs is tied for second in the National League behind Kyle Schwarber (28) and tied for fifth in the Majors. (The MLB home run leader, 2017 Derby champ Aaron Judge, has said he does not plan to participate in this year’s event.) Others high on the leaderboard include Yordan Alvarez, Mike Trout, Byron Buxton, Anthony Rizzo and Austin Riley.

Pitching to Alonso will be an old friend in former Mets bench coach Dave Jauss, who now works for the Nationals in a player development role. Alonso credited Jauss for a significant portion of his second Derby victory, noting that he threw the vast majority of his pitches to “a super, super tight area.”

“Looking back on it, the odds for me to win were pretty slim,” Alonso said. “Jaussy just gave me the best chance I possibly could [have] to compete and win.”

Jauss is in fine form as well, having traveled to London to throw to competitors last weekend in the inaugural Home Run Derby X event. Alonso said he still talks regularly to his old coach despite the fact that Jauss no longer works in the Mets’ organization.

“He said he’s loose and ready to go,” Alonso said. “I just need to give him about two pots of coffee for before, and a case of Bud Light for after, and then he said he’s good to go.”

Tickets are now on sale for all the 2022 All-Star Week events. Visit allstargame.com/tickets to find out how you can attend the events in person.