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DNVR Exclusive: Home Run Derby brackets and rules revealed, plus Vinny Castilla discusses greatest Coors Field homers
Pull the plug.
The 2021 Home Run Derby at Coors Field will not be using a humidor to store baseballs. And that might right a wrong as far as it concerns a certain Colorado Rockies’ slugger.
When Trevor Story went down to one knee to swat the first of three home runs on September 5, 2018, it was recognized at an estimated 505ft, longest in Coors Field history, pre and post-humidor.
The next season, Colorado Rockies fans even received a limited edition bobblehead honoring the achievement.
Somewhere over the next two years, that measurement was changed to 487ft and dropped to a tie for the 10th-longest with Andres Galarraga’s blast from September 28, 1997.
“It counts the same if it goes front row or 50 rows deep,” shrugged the Colorado representative in the 2021 Home Run Derby.
Story, bidding to become the first winner in Rockies history, will make Colorado the first team to have 12 different players participate in the Derby, spanning 14 total appearances. He joins Dante Bichette (1994); Ellis Burks (1996); Hall of Famer Larry Walker (1997, 1999); Vinny Castilla (1998); Todd Helton (2001); Matt Holliday (2008); Carlos González (2012, 2016); Michael Cuddyer (2013); Troy Tulowitzki (2014); Justin Morneau (2014); and most recently teammate Charlie Blackmon (2017).
If you ask Rockies great Vinny Castilla to pick someone other than Story, Washington Nationals OF Juan Soto might be the one to beat at this point.
“Obviously, the young guns that are playing right now like Vladimir (Guerrero) Jr. or (Fernando) Tatis Jr. or Soto, I’d love to see those guys at Coors Field,” Castilla shared days before the final field was set.
On Wednesday, the final two entrants and rule changes were announced for the extravaganza held on July 12 with brackets pitting sluggers against one another in a single-elimination tournament.
With only 10 home runs so far this season, Soto, only the second Nats player to ever participate in the Derby, has the eighth seed and is tasked with the job of out-slugging Los Angeles’ Angels’ superstar Shohei Ohtani. The No.1 seed leads all of MLB with 32 long balls and has already eclipsed the season-long mark for most homers by a Japanese-born player.
As the fifth-seed, reigning derby champ Pete Alonso from the New York Mets hopes to retain the title he won back in 2019, a feat accomplished only by Ken Griffey Jr. (1998-99) and Yoenis Céspedes (2013-14). He’s matched against the fourth-seed, Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Pérez. The winner will take on the victor of the Ohtani/Soto pairing in round two.
On the other side of the bracket, Story and his 11 home runs give him the seventh-seed and a duel with Texas Rangers right fielder and second-seed Joey Gallo, who has 21 homers.
The triumphant one will face the winner of Oakland A’s Matt Olson, third-seed, and Baltimore Orioles’ Trey Mancini, sixth-seed.
Each player now receives three minutes to hit as many home runs as humanly possible through rounds one and two; the final round will be two minutes. There’s a 45-second timeout for all regulation time; bonus periods do not permit a timeout.
In case of a tie, a 60-second swing-off will take place without any timeouts. At Progressive Field in 2019, Guerrero Jr. and Joc Pederson each hit 29 home runs in the second round before each following up with eight during the swing-off. The pair were given three more swings to break the tie: only Guerrero Jr. was able to tally a homer.
And if it isn’t already strange enough to have a clock in baseball, there’s one more element for the Derby: bonus time.
Should any player mash a baseball an estimated 475ft by Statcast – up from 440 ft in Cleveland – an additional 30 seconds will be added to their time.
The longest dinger at Coors Field is now credited to the previous record holder Giancarlo Stanton for his 504ft blast off Chad Bettis on August 6, 2016. The memorable blast was somewhat overshadowed immediately by the 3,000th career hit in MLB by Ichiro Suzuki the next day.
But the question remains: could a player hit one over the concourse in left field, up in the standing room only area of The Rooftop, or over the batter’s eye during a Home Run Derby?
“Underneath the King Soopers sign over the bleachers,” Castilla pointed from his seat atop the bench inside the first base dugout, “I’ve seen Mike Piazza hit a ball there. I don’t know how far that is, but it’s a long way. It was in a game, too. So, anything is possible.”
Though the blast from the Hall of Fame catcher was measured at 496ft, ESPN Hit Tracker estimated it at 515ft at the time and the pitcher, Rockies’ Darren Holmes, thinks it may have been about 540ft. Regardless, that home run on September 26, 1997 was hit so well and so deep that neither left fielder Dante Bichette nor center fielder Ellis Burks bothered to take a step backwards.
Now, without the benefit of a humidor keeping baseballs from drying out and flying out, we may find out just how far a ball can travel on the moon.