It was a surprise when Yoenis Cespedes was added to the AL Home Run Derby team, what Cespedes did in the derby itself was certainly not. His batting practice sessions have gained much notoriety around baseball for the prodigious homers he hits when nobody is looking. The impressive displays he puts on regularly during batting practice set him up for an impressive night in front of a packed Citi Field.
Cespedes announced his presence with some great authority by launching 17 home runs in the first round as A’s third base coach Mike Gallego grooved pitches down and in, besting all other competitors by a wide margin. The field, which included established sluggers like Prince Fielder, and team captains David Wright and Robinson Cano along with a few fellow first timers in Chris Davis, Michael Cuddyer, Bryce Harper, and Pedro Alvarez maxed out at just 8 home runs in the first round. Not only did Cespedes lead everyone with his 17 longballs, he managed to reach the third deck in left field multiple times, and hit the facade a couple more times.
Cespedes, Harper, Davis, and Cuddyer would reach the second round. By the time it was Cespedes’ turn, he didn’t even have to take his cuts to qualify for the finals as no other hitter got more than the 16 total home runs Bryce Harper hit. So Harper and Cespedes met in the finals to determine the champion.
Harper led off, and looked to be in a pretty good groove as he hit 8 home runs for the third straight round. He reached the upper deck in right field a number of times, but none of his home runs were as impressive as the ones Yoenis was hitting. Cespedes got on the board quick with a line drive homer down the line for his first, and then got himself in a groove that would ultimately lead to him crushing a home run to dead center field off the back of the batters eye, a shot estimated at 455 feet. Cespedes knew it was gone the moment he hit it, and flipped the bat aside and went to embrace his AL compatriots.
I wrote just a couple days ago that this night could serve as a spark to Cespedes’ season, and would help increase his profile on a national level. Not only did Yoenis Cespedes win the Home Run Derby, he dominated the Home Run Derby. He provided the most memorable home runs, and provided the most home runs. It was his night. It was a great night for A’s fans, and for everyone in the Oakland Athletics family.