On Monday, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder and six-time All Star Mookie Betts checked one more accomplishment off his long list of career achievements when he participated in the 2023 T-Mobile Home Run Derby.
Mookie credited a conversation with his wife for sparking his interest in the Derby. “She was like, ‘You’ve done everything you’ve wanted in baseball,’” Betts said. “The only thing you’ve never done is the Derby.’”
But even after entering, Betts was brutally honest about his chances to win as one of the smallest contestants in Home Run Derby history.
“My chances are really low,” Betts jokingly told the media before the showcase.
One reason for the lack of optimism from Mookie could have been the seeding for this year’s derby. The league did Mookie no favors, matching the veteran up with none other than MLB Legacy bomber and eventual derby champion Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the first round.
Vladdy made sure to give Betts quite the challenge in his first Derby appearance, finishing the first round with 26 bombs. Betts stepped to the plate needing 27 homers to advance, and unfortunately, he couldn’t deliver.
Betts finished the round with only 11 homers.
Betts wasn’t able to deliver, but this year’s Derby wouldn’t lack firepower. Seattle Mariners young cornerstone Julio Rodriguez put on a show for his hometown fans, hitting a record 41 home runs in the first round to defeat Pete Alonso.
Tampa Bay Rays Randy Arozarena was spectacular all night, first beating his good friend Adolis Garcia with 24 homers and then putting up 35 in the semi-finals before eventually falling to Vladdy Jr.
Despite not leaving victorious, Betts’ decision to participate added another name to an illustrious list of MLBbros who have participated in the contest since Dave Parker won the very first Derby in 1985.
Standing in the house that Griffey Built, who still holds the record for most Derby victories with three, Betts was a reminder of a history that is filled with Black champions.
Aaron Judge is the last Black player to win the award, claiming the title in 2017. This was also the same year he set the rookie record for most home runs.
Ken Griffey Jr.’s performance in the first televised derby in 1993, where he infamously hit the warehouse across the street from Camden Yards in Baltimore helped vault this event to what it is now.
Of all the events put on around every major sports league during their respective All-Star weekends, the Home Run Derby is the event that have been able to retain its luster.
The event has been tweaked in recent years, but even with a new format the excitement could still be felt throughout the ballpark with every swing.
Mookie may have lost, but once again, baseball won.