With the news that MLB is moving its 2021 All-Star Celebrations to Denver this summer, one thing immediately occurred to us: An All-Star Home Run Derby at Coors Field is going to be really fun.
Sure, the game itself will be a blast, and the MLB draft in the same location as the Midsummer Classic will make July even better for baseball fans – but a long ball competition for the game’s best sluggers at 5,280 feet? Yes, sign up for it … and maybe even let’s take the baseball balls out of the infamous Coors Field humidor for a night to see what these guys are really capable of in the Colorado air.
With this excitement at HR Derby, we asked ESPN MLB reporters David Schoenfield, Jesse Rogers, Joon Lee and Bradford Doolittle to join forces to select their dream field of eight for the event and predict how many homers it would take to win the long ball fight and how far the longest homer of the event could travel – note: the first digit will be a 5.
What do you care most when MLB All-Star Week comes to Coors Field?
Schönfield: I don’t think it’s fair to say the game itself isn’t interesting. The last three games were all one-run games, including two with 10 innings (the American League won seven in a row, by the way), but it’s also fair to say the game just isn’t as interesting as it used to be. This also reflects the changing importance of all-star games, especially given the nightly availability of highlights and games from around the country, giving fans the opportunity to watch star players every night.
Anyway … Coors Field is about insults so of course we want to see the Home Run Derby – which has been spectacular for the past three years (Aaron Judge won 2017, Bryce Harper won in 2018 ahead of his hometown fans and 2018) then the epic battle of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.-Joc Pederson-Pete Alonso in Cleveland in 2019).
Lee: I want to see things and lots of them. I want Vladdy Jr. to return to the derby. I would love to see Juan Soto beat a lot of things in a derby. That would probably never happen, but I’d love to see Shohei Ohtani in the derby too. I want balls to hit hard and wide. I am a simple man.
Rogers: The fences are in place. I am joking. How about a full stadium of fans? It won’t be quite the same when all of these star players entertain in front of about 10,000 fans. A midsummer classic with COVID-19 conditions across the country at a full house level and a great tribute to MLB’s Hank Aaron are the two things that matter most to me. Of course, a summer home run derby at Coors is more interesting than the game.
Doolittle: That’s in three months and I really hope Coors Field is full because by this point it is safe to do so. I look forward to seeing businesses in downtown Denver get a much-needed boost after the pandemic, particularly the wonderful National Ballpark Museum on 1940 Blake Street. I look forward to seeing who gets chosen to play the game because it stays an honor to be selected. And I always like to see the latest lines in the historical registers for all-star scores and MVPs. The current record is AL 45, NL 43, tie 2. And of course I’m looking forward to seeing Hank Aaron honored.
How many home runs will the winner hit?
Schönfield: I’m leaving at 763 and breaking the Barry Bonds career record.
Lee: Enough for everyone in the crowd to go home with a baseball.
Rogers: Are we using juiced balls, humidorized balls, or some other concoction to add to the drama (and results)?
Doolittle: Sixty-three. I don’t have any real basis on which to choose this number, but it looks like it has taken about 20 to win a round for the past few years, other than a “swing-off,” and I have one per round for Coors Field pinned.
What’s the longest home run we’ll see in the mile-high air?
Schönfield: Let’s see … Guerrero hit the longest in 2019 at 488 feet. Javier Baez had the longest in 2018 at 479 (Harper had the next four the longest). The judge struck a massive 513-foot moon shot in Miami in 2017. I think there’s a pretty good chance we’ll see MULTIPLE 500-foot shots this time around. Especially when we grab a few baseball balls from 2019 onwards.
Lee: I need to see someone crack 500 feet.
Rogers: It could happen in the game itself if he doesn’t make the derby. But Javy Baez will swing so hard that his racket will travel 450 feet. The ball lands 524 feet from the baseplate.
Doolittle: This may be physically impossible, but even more than the distance, I’m excited to see if anyone can get the Rockpile seats in midfield. The best i can say that Mike Piazza Homer is the closest anyone has reached to reach them in a game setting. I found an old article in which Walt Weiss claimed that Mark McGwire hit the front of this section while doing punch training.
Maybe if it’s a particularly warm night and the wind is blowing in the right direction and Giancarlo Stanton enters the competition … but it probably won’t work. When someone does this we are talking at least 500 feet or so, maybe more because the section is elevated. But let’s go with this figure.
Who are the two must-see players in a Coors Field home run derby and why?
Schönfield: I go with the rematch of the 2019 final: Guerrero and Alonso. At Coors. Oh yes baby. And Alonso should be wearing that necklace from two years ago.
Lee: Shohei Ohtani and a healthy Giancarlo Stanton
Rogers: The sight of Juan Soto staring at his hitting jug is too beautiful to pass up. Oh, and he’ll hit those bombs. One of the young faces of the game has to be there. And since Nolan Arenado knows everything about hitting at Coors, he’s there too. A former star returning to watch the Colorado derby ownership at his old stadium makes a great tale.
Doolittle: Let’s go with Fernando Tatis Jr. and Ronald Acuna Jr. Two young superstars who are good at almost anything, but both have a thing for tall, majestic homers and a knack for thriving in the spotlight.
That leaves us with a dream field of Coors Field Home Run Derby: Vlad Guerrero Jr., Pete Alonso, Shohei Ohtani, Giancarlo Stanton, Juan Soto, Nolan Arenado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Ronald Acuna Jr. … Yes, you sign us for it in fact.