In his fourth Home Run Derby appearance — at age 34– Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz smashed 32 total home runs in three rounds to win the Derby title at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.
Ortiz and Florida Marlins' shortstop, Hanley Ramirez, went into a final tie-breaking round as the two were tied at 21 homers through the first two standard rounds. Ramirez proved a worthy opponent to Big Papi, but fell short in the final round where he hit five homers to finish the day with 26 blasts.
After a total of three home runs came about from the first two contestants (Chris Young and Vernon Wells) skepticism began to creep in. Is this park too difficult to smash homers out of? Is the pitcher tossing too hard? Even more worrisome was the fact that one of Wells' hits didn't technically clear the left field wall. An eager fan reached over and grabbed the ball to deem it a homer.
Then Corey Hart stepped into the batter's box. The six-foot, six-inch tattooed string bean slugged 13 dingers over the fences –and these weren't just dropping over the wall. Hart smashed monster blasts that cleared twenty rows into the grandstands. Hart definitely got the bleachers buzzing early in the first round.
Yankees' outfielder Nick Swisher received the daunting task of following Hart, and his teammate and fellow All-Star, Alex Rodriguez, jumped on the microphone to give the play-by-play with ESPN's Baseball Tonight crew. Rodriguez didn't stay at the broadcasting table long, as Swisher hit just four out of the park before expiring to the dugout.
Matt Holliday showed all those in attendance that pressure doesn't affect him, as he smashed four of his five shots with just one out remaining in his effort.
Enter Big Papi. Boston's designated hitter gave ESPN announcer, Chris Berman, a run for his money. Ortiz hit them hard, and he hit them fast, forcing Berman to sound more like he was imitating a chicken than urging his usual "Back, Back, Back, Back" in regular time. Ortiz drilled eight homers into the right-field seats, stopping to take a Gatorade break with two outs remaining. The refreshment cooled him off more than intended, and he didn't go yard again. However, his eight-blast effort earned him a bid into the second round.
Will Ferrell jumped on the mike to broadcast while Ramirez — the former Red Sox prospect — was at the plate, but there wasn't much to joke about in the young shortstop's attempt. The two-time silver slugger bested Ortiz by one home run, finishing the round with nine homers.
It was obvious that Miguel Cabrera ate his Wheaties before the contest. The Detroit first baseman leads the majors in batting average (.346), and hit absolute bombs in the final spot of the first round. Ortiz even took a moment of silence during Cabrera's effort while interviewing with ESPN's Erin Andrews. The Boston DH froze watching one of Cabrera's blasts and mouthed "Wow." Cabrera moved to the second round with a total of seven homers.
Cue round two.
Just fifteen minutes after his first-round appearance, Papi returned to the plate for his second go-around, and he was feeling it. Ortiz demolished thirteen long balls into right-center field, and did the same to his second-round Derby curse. He set a difficult pace for the other participants to follow, finishing the first two rounds with 21 home runs.
Cabrera's 'Breakfast of Champions' didn't last him into the second round. At least not enough to keep up with Big Papi. He smacked just five more homers to finish the day with 12, which couldn't even surpass the first-round demolition derby put on by Hart.
With Ortiz shouting words of encouragement from the sidelines, Ramirez notched 12 taters in round two to tie things up at 21. The two Dominican Republic natives embraced after Ramirez' effort, ready to square off in a head-to-head rally. That is unless Hart could continue his heroics from round one.
Unfortunately for the Brewers' right fielder, he lost his hot streak in round two. With over an hour between at-bats, Hart lost all his steam and fell victim to what Ortiz calls "cooling off," which is the worst thing that can happen to a batter during the Derby. Hart couldn't even lift one over the walls in the second round, and finished the day with the 13-count.
That set the stage for the highly-anticipated showdown between the two Dominican sluggers in the finals.
Ortiz did not disappoint his fans in the final round, connecting for 11 more homers and smacking eight of them with just one out on the board. Ramirez knew from the crowd's raucous cheering that he had some major pressure to deal with going second in the round.
The 26-year-old shortstop kept up with Ortiz, who he said was like a father to him while he was with the Sox organization, through the first two rounds, but couldn't match Big Papi's consistency in the final stanza. Ramirez tallied just five homers in round three, succumbing to his mentor in the battle of the bats, 32-26.
Big Papi kept a smile on his face and a bounce in his step the entire time, delivering yet another great plate performance to his fans across the globe. He's just doing what he does best.