April 21, 2024

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2022 MLB All-Star Game – How each Home Run Derby player chose their pitcher

2022 MLB All-Star Game - How each Home Run Derby player chose their pitcher

Cory Seeger He called his dad Thursday to ask Jeff Seeger how long it’s been since he delivered hitting training. This may have been an odd question, but there was a very special reason behind it: Corey wanted his dad to go to him at the Home Run Derby.

Jeff Seeger didn’t immediately say yes. Instead, he drove two miles to Northwest Cabarrus High School, where he threw a zillion hours of batting training to his sons inside cages that the Seagers had a key to. Jeff Seeger loosened his arm – and seemed to feel fine, as he quickly called Corey again to give him approval.

Possibly the Dodger Stadium crowd favorite in the derby, Seager returns to Los Angeles for the first time since signing with the Texas Rangers as a free agent in the off-season. He will have an ingrained understanding of how the ball travels in the late afternoon on a hot California day. He will be surrounded by familiar faces, from security to club attendees. But the most satisfying part of the event for Seager is sharing the moment with his father. “It probably threw me more than anything in my life,” Corey said in a phone conversation this week. “You do what makes you most comfortable.”

“It’s going to be a really exciting moment, in so many ways.”

When Corey got back in the Derby again in 2016 in San Diego, Jeff Seeger threw him in as well. Corey recalls that his father was very nervous at first, “but then kind of closed off.”

As the last confirmed rider, just 72 hours before the derby, Seeger did not plan to train, to re-acquaint himself with the pace of the event, the exhaustion that overpowers many competitors. “No, I’m only going to the wing,” he said, though he added, “I will definitely try to pull the ball.”

Summary of some plans and pitches for other Home Run Derby players:

For a Batter who seemed to have mastered the art of the Home Run Derby like no other player, there was no doubt who would pick him to catch him – the man who could be considered the industry standard for batting practice, 65-year-old Dave Gauss.

In 2021, Gauss was the Mets coach and helped Alonso dominate the Colorado derby. After the Mets changed managers and most of their coaching staff, Gauss took a job with the Washington Nationals. But Alonso approached him during spring training to ensure that if Alonso returns to the derby, Gauss will throw at him again.

In fact, Alonso’s teammate was, Jeff McNeillWho first leaked the news to Gauss. So you know, Pete will ask you again,” said McNeill.

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Gauss has a long history in the derby. He and Clint Heerdel threw to all-hitters in 1999, when the event was at Fenway Park, and after showing off with Alonso last summer, Gauss was asked to throw for Major League baseball hitters in Derby X. Gauss was in London earlier this year and is scheduled to take trips to South Korea and Mexico in the coming months.

His ability to throw consistently in hitting drills is what “kept me in the game,” Gauss said, laughing. I don’t dress up as Wally the Green Monster, and I don’t have to be Abraham Lincoln in the Chiefs race.

The derby throwing experience was enriched by sharing the experience with Alonso, whose Gauss and his family have embraced. “He’s a guy of quality, good at the industry,” said Gauss.

Like Alonso, Soto has made it clear that his goal is to win. Last year, Soto came out Shuhei Ohtani in a wild first-round match, and what he learned from that night will inform his style in this year’s derby. “I’m going to do the same thing I did last year – not trying to hit the moon shots,” he said. “I will be consistent [with my swing]. “

The urban legend surrounding the derby is that hitters sometimes spoil their swings during the event, requiring participants to take the kind of hasty hacks they’ve never done in their daily preparations. But Soto stated last year that he felt the derby helped him, getting aggressive and swinging on the track in the second half as Soto created a slash of .333/.485/.601. This experience has made Soto fully involved in this year’s event, and he has asked Jorge Mejia to pitch for him. He has worked with Soto extensively; The two met when Soto was 17 years old. “He’s been my hitting coach for the off-season,” Soto said.

Soto said Mejia’s delivery allows him to see the ball well – three-quarter movement, not too high and not too low. “It’s very accurate,” Soto said.

Rodriguez is 21 and ranks among the youngest competitors in Home Run Derby history, but he asked enough to know this: He wouldn’t worry about the distance, just clear the fence. “I’m not going to try to hit the ball as far,” he said over the phone. Instead, he hopes to have plenty of pitch in the area so he can consistently get the ball in the air and over the fence, while conserving some of his energy in order to follow the swings.

Rodriguez’s goal was to train over the weekend, at least to try out the timed shape, to understand what it was like. His batsman, Franmi Peña, was in Texas over the weekend, with a locker next to Rodriguez, as part of their preparation for the derby.

The Peña family runs a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, and Rodriguez said that if it weren’t for Franmi and his father, he wouldn’t think he would be in the event. Peña played in minor leagues with the Rockies and Brewers organizations a decade ago, serving as a trap for much of that time. Some of the best hitting shooters are former anglers due to their short and precise arm movement. Rodriguez said Peña throws him in hitting training a lot, and he’s very consistent.

Of course, throwing practice is different when you’re on a soccer field that will be full the way Dodger Stadium will be on Monday, a fact Rodriguez admitted. Over the years, tense and sometimes inaccurate bowlers have sabotaged derby participants. “But he’s ready for it,” Rodriguez said.

The belief among some of the contenders is that experience will be crucial to defeating Alonso, and no one has more derby experience than Pujols, who is participating in the event for the fifth time. He would set a derby record – at 42 years and 183 days old, he’s more than two years older than Barry Bonds, who was 39 years and 353 days old when he reached the semi-finals in 2004.

The Pujols are also 8 years older than the older winner, Dave Parker, who was 34 when he played his flips in 1985 – similarly, the Pujols have more races on their home ground (685) than any competitor in it the time.

Pujols asked Kleininger Teran, the Cardinals’ catcher and regular batting-training bowler, to throw for him.

Two weeks ago, Schwarber seemed to be inclined to swing in the derby. But realizing that the event needed the best power-hitters, he changed his mind. Before he made one last call, he called the batter training shooter he threw in 2018 when he nearly got close Bryce Harper in Washington. Mike Sanicola played for the University of Miami and threw Schwarber in the off-season. Schwarber and others refer to it as money because his batting practice is so consistent.

“Do you want to do that?” Schwarber asked.

Money replied, “Sure.”

What Schwarber learned about Sanicola in 2018, he said, is that Sannicola “is not going to be outdone at the moment. He’s very confident in himself.”

Schwarber said what he’s come up with is that he doesn’t really have to try to hit every single throw. Instead, it’s best to be patient and stay home on the pitches he can drive. “Perhaps a continuous swing is not the best strategy,” he said. “But don’t get me wrong, you’ll be running at a fast pace.”

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Schwarber hit his left hand mostly with the ball that year, when he came in second behind Harper, but this time, he figured he’d try to push the ball into the middle or right middle. Nice place? “Anywhere in the strike zone,” he said with a laugh. “Aim for the middle, and we’ll start from there.”

Most derby players will try to target one part of the park – like Todd Fraser, who tried to pull all the pitches to the left. But when it was Acuña who scored the right kick in the derby in 2019, he distinguished himself from other competitors by shooting the ball in all directions. “He has strength on the opposite court and he can make a show,” said Braves coach Thomas Perez.

It was Perez who made an offer to Acuña that year – a Venezuelan who made an offer to a fellow Venezuelan – and will speak again in Los Angeles. He and Acuña have been talking for weeks about getting back to the event, and about three weeks ago, the Braves player officially got the invite. “Everyone in my country will be watching,” said Perez, who provides batting training to Acuña on the Braves daily regimen. “I hope we can do it right, and it will be so much fun for the fans, for our country.”

Acuña and Perez agreed to practice a little more over the weekend in Washington – a specific minute. The sweet spot that Perez says he’ll aim for while working in Acuña: just a little inside, at the top of the strike zone a little bit.

As Ramirez explained through an interpreter, the derby is something he’s always wanted to do, in part for those around him, for his mother. “My family was eager for me to do that,” he said.

And the man who throws it may also be a family member. Over a decade ago, Junior Betances had been hearing a lot from a friend about his nephew, about his special talent in baseball, so the Betances found some time to watch the kid. That was the first time he saw Ramirez, then he was 17 years old.

Next, in his role as a minor league hit coach, Betance worked with Ramirez, mentoring him in professional baseball. Given all that history shared, Ramirez reached out last week to Betance, who now works for the Guardians’ Double-A team, and asked him if he wanted to throw the derby. For the Betances, it was an emotional moment.

“It’s unbelievable,” Betance said. “I’m very excited, and I really appreciate it.”