Soto Doesn’t Turn Down Home Run Crown: Nationals’ slugger wins Derby over impressive Rodriguez

Winner of the 2022 Home Run Derby before the All Star Game at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles the Washington Nationals Juan Soto is shown taking a hack during the contest on Mon Jul 18, 2022 (AP News photo)

By Morris Phillips

LOS ANGELES–These days with baseball sluggers more capable, and itching to show their wares, you’ve got to do a little more to win the T-Mobile Home Run Derby.

Just ask Julio Rodriguez. The Mariners’ 21-year old, breakout star hit 81 homers, knocked off the two-time defending champion Pete Alonso, and still came up short–by one home run–as Washington’s Juan Soto captured the title at Dodger Stadium on Monday night.

The 23-year old Soto vowed he would win it, but he would have been surprised to know that he would have to get past fellow Dominicans Rodriguez and Albert Pujols to do it. Both Rodriguez and Pujols were surprise advancers as sluggers Kyle Schwarber and Corey Seager both took early exits.

Rodriguez started the competition with 32 homers against Seager, as he took advantage of not only his power but the positioning of the sun and shadows to start the event. He then came back and eliminated Alonso with 31 homers, as the defending champ could never seem to string together big flies and gather momentum. Alonso was eliminated with just 23 homers despite earning the full minute of bonus slugging.

Meanwhile, Soto gained momentum as the event progressed, first knocking off the Guardians’ Jose Ramirez, then taking down Pujols, who was the surprise, first round winner over Schwarber. By the third round, and Soto’s third as the finishing competitor already knowing what his opponent had done. Against Rodriguez, Soto patiently pursued the younger sluggers’ 18 blasts, and then made up the final four home runs needed in his bonus minute.

“It feels amazing. It feels tiring. I just tried to concentrate to square off the balls because I know I have the power,” Soto said.

Speculation is that Soto will be traded after turning down the Nationals’ offer of $440 million dollars over 13 seasons. That move, which will likely involve a bid or inquiry from the Giants, could happen in the coming weeks.

“Right now I’m not even thinking about it. I’m a champion, and I will be a champion for the Nationals,” he said.

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