Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto defeated Seattle Mariners rookie Julio Rodriguez to win the 2022 Home Run Derby. The list of contestants included MLB icon Albert Pujols, 2020 World Series MVP Corey Seager and 2021 Home Run Derby winner Pete Alonzo.
At 23, Soto became the second-youngest MLB player to win the Derby. He is the first Dominican-born Home Run Derby champion since 2011. He also hit the farthest home run at 482 feet.
“I feel good and I feel bad at the same time,” Soto said. “You hit it, but you don’t have time to see how far it lands. But the feeling is really amazing.”
The derby was in a tournament format; Kyle Schwarber of the Philadelphia Phillies battled Pujols, Soto’s first-round opponent was José Ramírez of the Cleveland Guardians, Alonzo squared off against Ronald Acuña Jr, and Seager battled Rodríguez.
Rodriguez set the tone as the first-rounder to hit 32 home runs. Seager hit 20 homers but managed just three more in his 60 seconds of bonus time.
Acuña Jr. faced off against reigning Darbito champion Pete Alonso. Acuña Jr. hit 30 seconds after hitting 18 home runs, but hit just one more in his bonus time. Alonso topped him with 20 home runs to advance.
Soto hit after Ramirez, surpassing his 17 home runs. Puhols struck first in his faceoff against Schwarber. Before Pujols began his bonus time attempt, the National League and American League All-Stars gathered around to congratulate him. The Dodgers Stadium fans gave him a standing ovation.
“It’s pretty cool to be back here just one last time, so I’m honored and humbled,” Puhols said. “I thank my Lord for giving me a great career.”
Soto mentioned how the tribute was a “special moment.”
“This could be his last Home Run Derby and All-Star Game, so we’ve got to be there for him and give him some strength to keep going,” Soto said. “When you cheer for him and give him that positive energy, things can change and he came through after that.”
Schwarber and Puholz tied it at 13 and reached the swing-off, where the 11-time All-Star advanced.
The semifinals pitted rookie Rodriguez against champion Alonso. Rodriguez hit 31 homers, and Alonso’s hopes of becoming the first MLB player to hit three home runs in the Home Run Derby faded as he fell short with 23.
Pujols was the first batter against Soto, scoring 15. But Soto topped his performance with 16 and faced Rodríguez in the final. When Soto sent his game-winning homer, he dropped to one knee before throwing his baseball bat high into the air.
“I was looking for strength to throw my bat because I didn’t have any strength,” Soto said. “Then when I saw the ball land … it just feels amazing, seeing the scoreboard change and show you the champion, it was amazing.”
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