Former UF standout Pete Alonso will defend HR Derby title
NEW YORK — Mets slugger Pete Alonso will defend his Home Run Derby title at Coors Field on July 12, but there will be no rematch with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays, who has decided not to take part.
Alonso (University of Florida) made his announcement Wednesday on his Instagram page. He joins Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels in the derby, held on the night before the All-Star Game.
“I had so much fun during the first one, so I was like, you know what? Let's do it again," Alonso said. "I just had a blast, and it's a really special moment, and as long as I have an opportunity to do it, I want to do it. Because it's something that I always dreamt about as a kid.”
Alonso won the derby at Cleveland’s Progressive Field in 2019, the last time it was held, by defeating Guerrero 23-22 in the final round.
Guerrero, who shared the major league home run lead with Ohtani heading into play Wednesday, spoke before the Blue Jays' game in Miami. Guerrero also leads All-Star voting and plans to play in the game, but said he wants to get some rest during the break.
“I feel good physically,” Guerrero said through a translator. “Everything is going well. There is a long way to go still. I just want to keep it that way.”
Guerrero has 23 homers and also leads MLB in slugging and OPS. Alonso has 11 homers and set a rookie record with a major league-high 53 in 2019.
The derby and All-Star Game were canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, which delayed the start of the season until late July.
"I just know it’s going to be a hell of a time,” Alonso said. “It’s going to be a star-studded derby.”
Alonso's cousin threw to him two years ago, an experience the New York first baseman called “absolutely surreal.” But he said Mets bench coach Dave Jauss will be his batting practice pitcher this time in Denver.
“I know a lot of guys get affected by the high altitude. But for me, like, I love it,” Alonso said. “I love it out in Colorado, and I usually spend some time out West in the offseason, so I know what the altitude’s going to be like.”
Only two players have won consecutive home run derbies: Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998 at Coors Field and 1999 at Boston's Fenway Park, and Oakland's Yoenis Céspedes in 2013 at New York's Citi Field and 2014 at Minneapolis' Target Field.
“I’d love to win it again,” Alonso said. “I just need one more than the other guy. That’s it.”