ATLANTA (AP)Mets slugger Pete Alonso will try to become the first player to win the All-Star Home Run Derby three consecutive times against a field that will include the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols, Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber, the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. and Washington’s Juan Soto.
The New York first baseman said Monday he is one of nine participants in the July 18 competition at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
”It’s a really fun event, and it’s going to be super exciting,” Alonso said before the Mets played at Atlanta on Monday night. ”I have a really good plan to go into it and, again, I have just so much fun. I don’t think anyone has more fun than I do, especially when it comes to this event.”
Dave Jauss, who was the Mets’ bench coach and is now a Washington Nationals special assistant, will pitch to Alonso for the second straight Derby.
”Just need to give him about two pots of coffee for before and a case of Bud Lite for after, and he said he’s good to go,” Alonso said.
Alonso hit 74 total home runs in last year’s Derby at Denver’s Coors Field and beat Baltimore’s Trey Mancini 23-22 in the final round. Alonso joined Ken Griffey Jr. (1998-99) and Yoenis Cespedes (2013-14) in winning consecutive titles. Griffey also won in 1994 and is the only three-time champion.
Pujols will participate in his fifth Derby after coming up short in 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2015. He and Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera were added to the All-Star rosters as special selections by Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Pujols will make his 11th All-Star appearance and participate in the Derby at one of his former homes. He played 85 games with the Dodgers last season after being cut by the Los Angeles Angels, then signed with St. Louis before this season, which he has said will be his last.
The 42-year-old Pujols has five homers this season and 684 in his career, fifth on the career list.
”It’s an honor to be back in the All-Star Game and to have a chance to be part of the Home Run Derby, that’s something I enjoy a lot and my kids will have a blast,” Pujols said Monday night. ”Hopefully, I can put on a good show for them, because at the end of the day, it’s not about us, it’s about putting a good show for the fans.”
Schwarber posted a home run highlight reel on his Instagram page on Tuesday and the Phillies later confirmed their lone All-Star representative would participate in the Derby. Schwarber has 28 home runs in his first season with the Phillies.
Acuna, the Atlanta star who will be a starting outfielder for the National League, will compete in his second Home Run Derby. Acuna was eliminated by Alonso in 2019, when he set a career high with 41 homers.
Acuna will compete in the Derby even though he is not one of seven Atlanta players with 10 or more homers.
Acuna is hitting .274 with eight homers. He missed 19 games at the start of the season as he continued his recovery from reconstructive surgery on his right knee.
Acuna was the NL’s leader in All-Star voting.
Soto will be in the Derby for the second straight year. He hit the longest home run in last year’s competition at 520 feet – the longest Derby drive in the Statcast era. He beat Shohei Ohtani 31-28 after two tiebreakers in the first round, then lost to Alonso 16-15 in the second round.
Soto is hitting .243 with 17 home runs this season.
Joey Gallo, Matt Olson, Salvador Perez and Trevor Story also competed last year.
There was no Derby in 2020, when the All-Star Game scheduled for Dodger Stadium was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Alonso won the 2019 Derby at Cleveland as a rookie when he defeated Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the final round, also by 23-22. Guerrero, whose father won the event in 2007, hit 91 total homers but tired in the final round.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports