Prince crowned as Derby champ for second time

July 9th, 2012

KANSAS CITY -- The most popular guy in the building was Billy Butler, a fact Robinson Cano knew all too well.

But Prince Fielder was the undisputed king in a Royal take on the annual State Farm Home Run Derby rite Monday night at Kauffman Stadium.

Fielder feasted on the famous fountains to claim the Derby crown and vault himself into select slugging company. He now has another Derby victory to pair with his 2009 triumph in St. Louis' Busch Stadium, joining Ken Griffey Jr., who won three times, as the only Derby participants to win multiple trophies.

"As a kid, he was the first person with an NBA Jam in their house," Fielder said of Griffey, "so my dad would let me go over and play video games all day. He always took care of me when I was a kid, so to be mentioned with him is real special."

Fielder doesn't save his special feats for the Interstate 70 events. He was, after all, the All-Star MVP in Phoenix last summer.

But the Derby is definitely his domain, and he proved that at The K. He is the only player to win a Derby for each league.

With an 11-homer barrage in the second round, Fielder, the Tigers' $214 million man, found himself in the finals. And the dazzling dozen blasts he unleashed upon the audience in the final round were more than enough to best the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista, who ran out of gas after an early outburst and finished with seven in the round.

"I'm just a little disappointed in myself," Bautista said. "I know what I'm capable of doing, and I didn't really execute. But I had a lot of fun doing it, and we're going to help a lot of people and a lot of great causes with the donations we were able to make."

No question. With 82 total homers hit, including 15 Gold Balls when players were down to their final out, Major League Baseball and State Farm donated a grand total of $615,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The AL dominated the NL in the homer tally, 61-21, so $150,000 will go to the AL captain Cano's charity, with $100,000 awarded to BGCA in Cano's name. NL captain Matt Kemp's charity will receive $25,000.

Cano might have won in the league ledger, but he was certainly not a hit with the KC faithful. More than any homer-induced "ooh" or "ahh," the loudest sounds of the evening had to be the barrage of boos the loyal Royals fans dished out to Cano, who had said he'd like to add a hometown boy to his homer-bound bunch, only to snub Butler, the Royals' lone All-Star representative.

So when Cano, the defending Derby champ, came to the plate to close out the first round, a chorus of "Bil-ly But-ler!" chants preceded him and a loud chorus of catcalls hounded him. After commanding and captivating at Chase Field last summer, Cano came up empty-handed in this Derby. He was the first player since Brandon Inge in 2009 to be shut out.

But he didn't bemoan the booing.

"You play for the Yankees," he said, "everywhere you go you get booed."

Cano quickly became a spectator, as did Kemp, for whom this event doubled as a sort of rehab appearance as he works his way back from hamstring issues, and first-time Derby participants Carlos Gonzalez and Andrew McCutchen.

Fortunately for them, there were plenty of spectacular sights to behold.

Mark Trumbo, the young man known for his Bunyan-like BP showings, had his coming-out party with seven first-round blasts, the most prominent of which landed atop the Royals Hall of Fame in left. And Bautista turned in an early performance befitting the man who has hit more home runs than anybody since the start of the 2010 season. He went deep 11 times in the first round, a cushion that would come in handy in the second.

Fielder became the first Derby participant to find the fountains in the first round, but he notched just five homers and needed to improve on that performance if he hoped to survive.

Improve he did, by a long shot. In the second round, Fielder took the event over, going deep 11 times, with four of those blasts wading in the waters, one landing in a luxury box and four traveling over 460 feet. His longest was a 476-foot shot that got wet. It was a beautiful bombardment.

"The ball just met the barrel more, I guess," Fielder said with a characteristic shrug.

Because Fielder's effort raised the stakes, Carlos Beltran's happy homecoming to the place where he first burst onto the big league scene came to an abrupt ending when he clubbed just five homers in the second round. And while Trumbo was triumphant in the first round, he was left in a precarious position when he hit six in the second, giving him 13 for the evening.

That meant Bautista needed just two to tie and three to advance. After five quick outs, it looked like Bautista might come up short, but he pounded out a pair before his 10th out to force a five-swing playoff between him and Trumbo. After just one of Trumbo's five swings resulted in a long ball, Bautista wasted no time taking care of business, going 2-for-2 to move on.

The finals, though, belonged to Fielder. His swing, tailor-made to this event, sent the ball rocketing off his bat and high into the Missouri sky. His first three homers of the round came with no outs, and he hit three more before his second out. It was clear Fielder was on course for something special, and he still had six more in him.

And so it was a tall order of 12 bestowed upon Bautista when he came to bat. He went deep four times before his fifth out, raising faint hope. But the fatigue was clearly a factor, as Bautista managed just three more the rest of the way. His seven-homer showing in the finals was nothing to sneeze at, but it was not up to Prince's par. The fans were on their feet as Bautista made the final out -- a high popup to the infield -- and Fielder was mobbed by his fellow All-Stars and his two young sons, Jadyn and Haven, who, as Fielder said, "won't have to fight" over his initial Derby trophy anymore.

Will we see more of Fielder in the Derby? Well, that's a silly question.

"Definitely," he said. "If I'm invited, I'll definitely keep doing them."

Right now, nobody does them better.