First, there was the special bat David Ortiz wheeled out to him in a wooden case.
Then, Vladimir Guerrero paused during his second round of Monday’s Home Run Derby at AT&T Park to tape a finger on his right hand.
Finally, with the Los Angeles Angels’ power hitter one long ball away from defeating Toronto’s Alex Rios, Guerrero’s cousin Wilfredo Paulino built the drama even further by approaching the right fielder at home plate to deliver one final pep talk.
Guerrero supplied the majority of the theatrics during the popular slugging competition, so it was only fitting the right fielder walked away with the trophy. Guerrero beat Rios 3-2 with three outs to spare in the final round, dropping his bat and celebrating with 18 family members and friends before his high drive had even landed in the left-field bleachers.
Guerrero finished with 17 home runs, including a spectacular 503-foot shot in the second round that cleared the left-field seating.
His secret? Some extra sleep.
“Obviously you have to summon the energy for something like this and we got in very late last night,” Guerrero said through a translator. “So I slept a little bit later this morning to rest up a little.”
Rios, an outfielder for the Blue Jays, actually had the most home runs overall with 19, but the totals were reset to zero in the final round. He went on a spectacular run in the semifinals, blasting five in a row after getting down to his final out, finishing the round with 12.
The competition actually got off to a relatively slow start, as defending champion Ryan Howard (Philadephia Phillies, three homers) and fellow lefty sluggers Prince Fielder (Milwaukee Brewers, three) and Justin Morneau (Minnesota Twins, four) were all eliminated after the first round. That left only right-handed hitters remaining and the contest surprisingly ended without a splash hit landing in McCovey Cove — at least none that were fair (Fielder splashed one foul).
Matt Holliday (Colorado Rockies) injected some life into the crowd with a superb second round, peppering the left-field stands with eight home runs.
But in the end, the lasting image was Guerrero dancing on the field with a Dominican flag.
“I wasn’t looking for anything,” he said. “I was just trying to swing the [bat] hard like I always do.”
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