Since his debut in 2019, no one in baseball has hit more home runs than New York Mets hitter Pete Alonso. In fact, no one came close. Alonso’s 130 home runs overtakes second-most prolific home run hitter Eugenio Suarez by 19. Alonso has 24 more home runs than Aaron Judge, 32 more than Bryce Harper, 35 more than Juan Soto and 36 more than Mike Trout.
“It’s the most addictive feeling,” said Alonso. “I mean, I can’t get enough of it. I don’t know if there’s anyone who loves hitting home runs more than I do.”
There’s never a better way to show that love than at the Home Run Derby, All-Star week that brings together Major League Baseball’s best home run players. As versatile a hitter as Alonso has become – his .268/.344/.527 line in a depressed attacking environment this season is a testament to that – the annual Midsummer commemoration of his longball prowess is set for one more time. about Monday at Dodger Stadium on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET.
Winner of the last two derbies in 2019 and 2021, Alonso is poised to make history with a third straight season. Only Ken Griffey Jr. has won three Home Run Derby titles, in 1994, 1998 and 1999. Although Alonso, 27, has plenty of time to match Junior’s total, he’d rather go the three-peat route.
To do this requires strategy in addition to skill. And in a recent interview with ESPN, Alonso lifted the curtain on how he approaches the derby and what it takes to win, whether you’re a veteran big league or a rookie looking for glory. Behold, just hours before he puts them to the test: Pete Alonso’s 10 rules for winning a home run derby.
Rule #1: Drink like crazy
Winning a home run derby begins days before the actual event, Alonso said. He makes sure he eats well and gets a few extra hours of sleep. Most notably, he drinks water as if suffering from a personal drought.
The derby’s new format, introduced in 2015, places the eight contestants in a seeded group. Each competitor swings for three minutes, with a 45-second time-out per round. He then gets 30 seconds of bonus time — and can earn an additional 30 seconds if at least one homer goes more than 440 feet in the first three minutes.
“People think the derby is a power showcase, but I think it’s more of an endurance competition,” said Alonso. “The thing is, it’s not just the day before. It’s a few days before for me. I always try to be the most hydrated person I can be because when you sweat out here, especially now in the summer, it’s going to be a lot. And then you feel tired when you’re not [hydrated]. So I just want to be able to get my body back on its feet, recover and be able to sustain a high energy output.”
Rule #2: Get moral support
Those brave enough to compete in a home run derby should know that the support of friends goes a long way. And if you’re Pete Alonso, your friends are Mike Piazza and Mark McGwire, the latter of whom won the 1992 Derby.
“I thought they were pretty much superheroes and to be able to match them both [is amazing]’ said Alonso. “Mark actually texted me the other day and he’s quite excited that I would be attending the Derby. So it’s really amazing for me to have a relationship with my childhood idols.”
Rule #3: The opponent doesn’t matter
Alonso is No. 2 in this year’s derby, which has hitters ranked based on their home runs in the first half. Philadelphia’s Kyle Schwarber leads the field, followed by Alonso, Corey Seager, Soto, Jose Ramirez, rookie Julio Rodriguez, Alonso’s opponent Ronald Acuna Jr. and Albert Pujols.
It would be easy and natural for Alonso to fear Acuna — his first-round opponent (the 7-seed with eight homers this season). Acuna’s amazing power punch and youth – he’s 24 – is the kind of combination that plays well in this event. But he’s Pete Alonso and everyone else isn’t, and that kind of confidence goes a long way.
“It doesn’t necessarily matter who I’m facing because I’m just out there and focused on my job, whatever the set number is, I just have to hit one more,” he said. “So I don’t really pay attention to who’s doing it. I just want to meet one more than the one I’m facing.”
Rule #4: Find the right pitcher
Alonso acknowledged that not everyone can get the best practice pitcher in the world – a pitcher willing to fly in from Europe for the event. Dave Jauss, a former Mets bench coach and current pitcher in Home Run Derby X, MLB’s attempt to make the derby an international event, became a passing celebrity last year grooving pitch after pitch in Alonso’s Nitrozone.
“He knows where it’s exactly right,” said Alonso. “Right across the middle of the plate and straight into the breadbasket. As much as I have to hit them, the pitcher has to throw them. It’s just as nerve-wracking for the pitcher as it is for the hitter because the pitcher has the responsibility of throwing the ball over the edge of the box. When you have 40, 50,000 people staring at you with their eyes breathing down your neck, it can be difficult.
Rule #5: Know your zone
In timed derbies, not only is it imperative for a pitcher to find the hitter’s sweet spot, but also for the contestant not to bat on sub-par pitches. Remember, a pitcher must wait for a fly ball to land to pitch the next victim. High flies that miss the fence are killers.
“Basically, I’m just looking for a parking space near me,” said Alonso. “I have an area where I look for the ball. So this will be my go zone. Pretty much my entire load is trying to see the ball in my area. And then when I’m finally in the loaded position, if I like what I’m seeing, you should see my hips, my core, my legs twisting backwards and through the baseball.
Rule #6: Stick to your swing
For all the dismay at whether the derby can ruin a player’s swing – ample evidence shows participants’ offensive numbers drop after the break… and there’s plenty of evidence of players’ offensive skills improving – Alonso disputed the point , trying to recreate his swing in the game in the exhibition.
“When I’m doing batting practice, I try to make playful swings,” said Alonso. “I want to be quick and concise in baseball, but also add a similar level of effort. Because I want to practice at a similar pace [as] how i play
“The swing is almost like a fingerprint, with each individual baseball player being different. There are many comparisons in baseball. Nobody is the same. it’s almost like a baseball player’s thumbprint.”
Rule #7: Use your downtime wisely
A well-timed timeout can save a player’s chances of winning the $1 million derby first place prize. Competitors may use it for a number of reasons – he’s off to a bad start and wants to change his juju, he needs to calculate the pace he needs to achieve to outperform an opponent, or he’s usually just tired.
“I know it sounds like a super simple answer,” Alonso said, “but when I’ve taken some time off, it’s like, OK, I need to catch my breath. I have to reset Or like last year: I walked over at halftime because we were in a really good groove. As soon as the groove ended, it was okay, let’s take a break here, catch our breath, and then cross the finish line. That’s why I find the right timing of the breaks enormous. “
Rule #8: Let your emotions out
Trying to calibrate all the emotions that a derby brings still challenges Alonso. He has no special technique to calm the nerves. So he hugs them all – likening himself to a fizzy drink.
“There is excitement,” Alonso said. “There’s doubt. There’s nervousness. There’s reluctance. It’s like a whole soda bottle full of emotion. And then when you go out there and hit it, when you shake it and pop the cap, it’s just that release of emotion. And then, for me, when I’m in my groove, it just comes out naturally.”
Rule #9: Hit tanks
You see, home run derbies are not for the soft. It takes a special kind of confidence to step into the batter’s box and hit a ball over the fence. But come on. The fence is merely an arbitrary measure of distance. As memorable as home runs in heaps are, the truly legendary performances come from the guys who hit the ball the furthest.
Alonso embraces this ethos. In last year’s final against Baltimore’s Trey Mancini, Alonso’s first shot landed his longest homer in the derby: 509 feet. Later that round, just before the win, he wrecked another ball: 115 mph from the bat, 508 feet before it landed. His 74 home runs in this event totaled 6.35 miles – an average of 453 feet per homer.
Dodger Stadium is a particularly appetizing opportunity for Alonso. Six times in history a batsman has batted a ball over the outfield pavilion and left the stadium: Willie Stargell twice, Piazza, McGwire, Giancarlo Stanton – who almost played in this year’s derby but retired this week – and Fernando Tatis Jr Alonso, who believes in the idea of the league using extra bouncy balls for the derby wants to finish seventh.
“People tell me all the time that with the Derby balls and the environment, I could probably put one in the parking lot,” Alonso said. “Well I think that would be fun. Actually knock one out of the stadium.”
Rule #10: Have fun
Maybe this one is obvious. The Home Run Derby is an inherently entertaining event, and regardless of the conflicting emotions, the variables you can’t control, the perils of hydration, it should be a good time. Enjoy the long ones. Be thankful for the fence scrapers. Laugh at the bad swings. And above all enjoy.
“I’m here to win,” said Alonso. “I’m doing it to win and it would be great, but ultimately I’m going to have a wonderful time. I will be able to help some people in need. It’s going to be a great time.”
https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/34260820/2022-mlb-all-star-game-pete-alonso-10-step-plan-winning-home-run-derby Pete Alonso’s 10-step plan to winning the Home Run Derby