Why Red Sox Hitting Coach Doesn’t Blame Players For Skipping Home Run Derby

Neither Mookie Betts nor J.D. Martinez had any interest in participating in this year’s Home Run Derby, and Boston Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers completely understands their reluctance.

While the Derby is a fun annual event leading up to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, swinging for the fences can take its toll on a player’s body, especially given the other demands of earning a trip to the Midsummer Classic.

“I think the emotional drain that it takes on you, and the anticipation and excitement that goes through your body … You’re having so much fun, but then the day off you’re traveling back to your city,” Hyers recently told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. “It takes a lot out of you, especially guys for their first time.”

There have been several examples over the years of players struggling in the second half after participating in the Home Run Derby. New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, for instance, stumbled at the end of July last season after winning the contest and, like Betts and Martinez, had no desire to compete this season.

Hyers, who served as an assistant hitting coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers for two seasons before joining Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s staff this past offseason, witnessed the Home Run Derby hangover firsthand with Cody Bellinger in 2017.

“Not speaking for Belli, me personally, all the excitement, the festivities, all the scheduling and preparing for things like that, I think it took a toll for a week or two,” Hyers told Bradford. “Physically it takes something out of you. It’s not just about being up there swinging for home runs. But you’re getting your swing ready for it and the anxiety and enthusiasm and all the things that go with it, everything off the field when you’re not getting the rest and routine you usually have, have an impact. … I think when the body gets fatigued and mentally you get fatigued, I think that’s where he kind of wore down a little bit.

“He didn’t practice any different, but I know mentally he was doing things. He didn’t get any time off,” Hyers added of Bellinger, per Bradford. “Every day he was getting ready for it and he just got out of his routine. Because you can’t stay in your routine. As soon as that last game is over you’re on an airplane going over, waking up early the next day to do all the requirements that you have to do, which is nobody’s fault, but it’s a tough schedule.”

The Home Run Derby will take place Monday night, with the All-Star Game scheduled to follow Tuesday night. Most of MLB then has Wednesday and Thursday off — the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs are the only teams with a game Thursday — before returning to work Friday.

There’s time built in for rest, sure, but the physical and mental benefits of the All-Star break can prove minimal if a player puts too much on his plate. And the truth is the Home Run Derby can be demanding, for as enjoyable as the experience often seems.

Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images

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