First-timers highlight Monday's HR Derby
Five players make debuts in long ball showcase
The State Farm Home Run Derby will introduce some new sluggers to the masses on Monday, when five players take part in the annual exhibition for the first time. Superstar Hanley Ramirez will be on the grand stage for the first time, along with American League veterans Nick Swisher and Vernon Wells and emerging National League talents Chris Young and Corey Hart.
Young, who was hitting .196 at last year's All-Star break, is trying to keep it all in perspective. Young, who already has as many home runs (15) as he hit last season, prefers to think of the opportunity as a privilege.
"It could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be in a Home Run Derby," he said on Thursday night, before his team played Ramirez and the Marlins. "So I would love to go out there and enjoy the experience. It's an honor."
Wells, who was also an All-Star in 2003 and '06, wants to get the most out of the experience this year. Wells endured difficult seasons in '07 and '09, and he's thrilled to be back among the game's elite. Toronto's center fielder has 19 home runs in his first 85 games, a surprising number, given that he hasn't hit more than 20 in any of the past three seasons.
Still, when you get down to it, the 31-year-old thinks that he'll react like any other first-timer.
"I'm going to be nervous," he said recently. "I hope I don't swing and miss. I did one in [Class] A ball, and I was nervous in 'A' ball. I can't imagine what I'm going to feel when I get up there."
Hart, who's currently fourth in the National League with 20 home runs, won't have to go far to ask for advice. Teammate Prince Fielder won the event in '09 and participated in it in '07, and Ryan Braun took some Derby swings in '08. Now it's Hart's turn, and he'll be looking to make a national name for himself as part of the proceedings.
Swisher, the last player named to the Derby, can appreciate every moment of the event. New York's outfielder was the winner of the All-Star Final Vote, and he said he's had countless people telling him that he got their vote. Now, Swisher has a unique chance to validate that support from the ballots by stepping up and swinging for the fences.
""People were telling me, everywhere I went," said Swisher. "I'm just excited and couldn't be happier for all the support."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.