As the Red Sox No. 1 fan I was obviously enthused to watch as David Ortiz became the first member of the Boston Red Sox to win the Home Run Derby last night; but, truth be told, I was more delighted the rest of the world got to see the vintage “Big Papi” many of us have come to love over the last several years.Sadly, that guy was missing early this year as David struggled for the second straight spring and many supposed fans and baseball writers called for him to be exiled from Boston.

But the vintage Papi started to emerge again by early-June, as his baseball fortunes turned and the sting of the early-season criticism abated. He was there last night as he paraded along the third base line—joking, laughing, hugging, and flashing that now-famous Ortiz smile throughout the Derby. His personality is infectious. And while the night started with Angels fans booing him during the player introductions (alas, the bitterness over the Red Sox post-season dominance of their hometown Angels spilled over into the Home Run Derby), he had won most of them over by the time the competition had come to its conclusion. Most fans gave him a rousing ovation at the end of the night.

And why not?

Ortiz put on a heckuva show throughout the night… and interviewed by ESPN at the end of it all he dedicated his performance to the fans and to his recently departed friend – former big league pitcher Jose Lima.

I know there are “haters” out there who make a habit of bashing Ortiz, but I just don’t get it. I love the guy and earnestly believe that 99.8% of baseball fans would love him, too, if he wore their favorite team’s uniform. (NOTE: Something that may happen if the Red Sox don’t get him signed to a contract extension pretty soon)


The Derby was not the slugger-studded affair it used to be. While it is still an event, it is hard to get overly enthused by the likes of Chris Young and Nick Swisher (with apologies to the players and the Diamondbacks and Yankees fans who may read this piece). I’d have preferred to see Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez in the competition, but, it is what it is. And while there were no titanic blasts like those of Mark McGwire or extraordinary displays like those of Bobby Abreu or Josh Hamilton, the Derby was still an event not to be missed.

The night started off underwhelmingly, as a couple of non-traditional Derby-types struggled to hit the long ball. Young (the pre-competition favorite of ESPN analyst John Kruk) hit one homer, and Toronto Blue Jays OF Vernon Wells socked just two. After a commercial break, Brewers OF Corey Hart got the attention of the audience by hitting 13 home runs, for an average distance of 433 feet. The always jovial Swisher followed Hart with a four-spot.

The second half of the first round was a bit more entertaining, as four “traditional” sluggers stepped to the plate.

St Louis Cardinals OF Matt Holliday (who was the pre-Derby pick of two ESPN analysts) only managed to hit five home runs and failed to advance to the second round, but he hit the longest home run of the night (at 497 feet). He pulled the ball down the left field line and unfortunately for television viewers, the ESPN cameras were unable to show where the ball landed. We only understood how far it had traveled by virtue of the network’s “Tale of the Tape”.

Ortiz followed with eight bombs of his own, half of which traveled less than 400 feet, but he was just getting warmed up.

Forida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez was the final National Leaguer of the first round, and he showed he belonged with the big boys by belting nine homers, including one that traveled an impressive 476 feet.

Tigers outfielder Miguel Cabrera ended the first round by smacking seven home runs and became the final qualifier for the second round.

Although Cabrera was the lowest qualifier and should have batted first in the second round, he had been the final competitor in the first round, so Ortiz agreed to lead off the round to give Cabrera a much-needed breather. This time he resembled the hitter we have come to know and love in Boston, belting 13 home runs (all of which exceeded 400′) to establish a benchmark of 21 for the two rounds. His fourth home run of the round traveled 478′ and careened off the State Farm banner in right field.

Cabrera followed with a disappointing total of five home runs, including a 485-ft blast, that gave him a cumulative total of 12 home runs. He was therefore eliminated from further competition (as both Ortiz and Hart had tallied more home runs).

Ramirez then had the most impressive round of the night, hitting 12 home runs – half of which traveled more than 450 feet — and giving him 21 home runs to tie Ortiz for the overall lead.

That brought Hart, who had been a spectator for an hour-and-a-half, back to the plate. He disappointed the throng at Angel Stadium by going homerless in the round, becoming the first competitor to post a bagel in the second round since the format was changed back in 1995.

And so close friends Ortiz and Ramirez moved on to the final. Mentor and mentee. Ortiz had befriended Ramirez when the young shortstop was a prospect in the Red Sox farm system (Ramirez was the key piece Boston shipped to Florida in the trade in which they acquired Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell). He told the national television audience that Big Papi had been “like my dad” when he had been a part of the Red Sox organization.

Ortiz, weary from the first two rounds, still managed to put on a show for the fans in the final round, hitting 11 more home runs to take a commanding lead. By doing so, he tied former Philadelphia Phillies OF Bobby Abreu for the most home runs hit in the final round of the competition (2005). In the round, he again pelted the State Farm sign and also hit the shortest dinger of the night – a ball that barely cleared the fence down the right field line at the 341 foot mark.

Ramirez followed Ortiz with five more home runs, but was also noticeably tired. In the middle of the round, Ortiz trotted out to home plate to give his protegee a breather, handing him a bottle of Gatorade and mopping his brow with a towel. But the respite didn’t help, and the young shortstop succumbed to his friend and “papi”.

And so the night belonged to Ortiz, who was crowned the king of your 2010 Home Run Derby.

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