The MLB All-Star break is upon us. And quite honestly, the “Midsummer Classic” is the best All-Star game in pro sports by a mile. For starters, it’s in the summer. Secondly, it’s the only game that actually counts (the winning league gets home-field advantage in the World Series). And of course, nothing says mid-July baseball like watching ding-dongs fly over the fence.
That’s right! The Home Run Derby has long been a favorite of fans who yearn for homers in a rapid-fire, continuous pace. (And unlike the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, the game’s brightest stars actually show up for this one. No offense, Jeremy Evans.) Plus, it’s always funny to see how bad those kids on the field are at catching fly balls. Egads.
To get you all hyped for tonight’s festivities, here is a list of this year’s best dingers to date. Sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
Cameron Maybin (San Diego Padres) - 485 feet
Might as well kick things off with the longest home run of the (mid-way) 2012 season; a 485-foot tape measure shot by Cameron Maybin of the Padres. While he is not known for his prodigious power (only four dings on the year), Maybin has a long stride that often results in moon shots. And you literally need to hit it to the moon when playing your home games in the notoriously spacious Petco Park.
Mark Trumbo (Anaheim Angels) - 459 feet
When the Halos shelled out $254 million to sign Albert Pujols this past winter, the franchise clearly had visions of “El Hombre” churning out multiple MVP-caliber seasons. Instead, the “The Machine” started the season looking more like Wall-E than The Terminator (granted, he has picked it up after an atrocious April). Still, the true Angels power bat has been youngster Mark Trumbo, who has already jacked 22 home runs this season, including this 459-foot bomb against the Rockies. He will proudly represent the AL in his first Home Run Derby.
Prince Fielder (Detroit Tigers) - 440 feet
Similar to fellow league-jumper Albert Pujols, the AL has not been especially kind to Prince Fielder, who only has 15 home runs to his name heading into the All-Star break. Clearly that’s nothing to sneeze at, but Fielder surely misses the cozy confines of Miller Park (where he crushed it with regularity), compared to the more pitcher-friendly Comerica Park. Still, Fielder has plenty of time to play catch up, and will join Mark Trumbo on the AL Home Run Derby squad. Fielder always packs a punch with his vicious uppercut swing, and this wallop off Kyle Lohse is just plain silly.
Matt Kemp (Los Angeles Dodgers) - 454 feet
2012 started off with a bang for 2011 NL MVP runner-up Matt Kemp, who parlayed his dream season into a .417 average and 12 home runs this April. Unfortunately, a pesky hamstring injury has kept Kemp on the DL since late May, and the All-Star sit-out is currently stuck on just 12 home runs. While he won’t play in the actual game, Kemp has decided to remain captain of the NL squad in the Home Run Derby, where he will attempt numerous bombs similar to this 454-foot behemoth off Brandon Beachy (in the rain, mind you).
Carlos Beltran (St. Louis Cardinals) - 464 feet
It’s been quite the comeback season for Carlos Beltran, who has always had one of the sweetest switch-hitter strokes in the game. The 35-year-old veteran is sitting pretty with 20 home runs, and will join Kemp on the NL crew at the Home Run Derby. Beltran has clearly found the fountain youth in St. Louis, and is on pace for his highest homer total since 2006. Watch as he sends an Ian Kennedy offering soaring 464 feet to deep right field.
Giancarlo Stanton (Florida Marlins) - 462 feet
There probably isn’t a hitter with as much pure power in the game as Giancarlo “Don’t Call Me Mike” Stanton, the Marlins’ 22-year-old phenom outfielder. Stanton has increased his power totals in all three of his big league seasons; he heads into the break with 19, despite hitting just one homer in April. In this at-bat, Stanton works a full-count against MLB fossil Jamie Moyer, before absolutely crushing a 462-foot grand slam against the left field scoreboard, slightly breaking it in the process. Unfortunately, knee surgery will keep Stanton on the shelf for over a month, costing him his first Home Run Derby.
Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays) - 408 feet
Never before in MLB history has a player come out of such relative obscurity to emerge as the league’s premier home run hitter, but such is the case for Jose Bautista. Known by stat geeks as “Joey Bats,” Bautista went from hitting 59 total homers over his first six big league seasons, to mashing 54 in 2010 and 43 in 2011, tops in MLB both years. And what do you know, Bautista (a no-brainer for the AL Home Run Derby squad) is currently tied for the league lead with 27 dings at the All-Star break, proving to anyone who still thinks he’s a fluke that they’re just, well, plain stupid. Another thing that’s plain stupid is this rocket off Joey Bats that manages to clear the Green Monster, and dent a car’s hood in the Fenway parking lot.
Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers) - 417 feet, 416 feet, 381 feet
After an off-season marred by PED allegations, Ryan Braun dodged a bullet (i.e., a 50-game suspension) this year, and is clearly not letting any of the hoopla affect his game. After winning his first MVP award in 2011, Braun is on pace for a possible repeat, thanks in large part to his NL-leading 24 home runs. Three of those bombs came in one game on April 30, when Braun nailed his first career home run hat trick. Even more impressive, the “Hebrew Hammer” managed the feat at the cavernous Petco Park.
Curtis Granderson (New York Yankees) - 378 feet, 352 feet, 336 feet
Ryan Braun wasn’t the only slugger to go “happy-go-jacky, like a donkey eating a waffle” in April this season. On April 19 at Yankee Stadium, Curtis Granderson showed a relentless urge to hit everything out of the park, and did almost that, turning his first three at-bats into home runs—all within the first four innings of the game. (He went on to finish 5-5.) The All-Star starting outfielder has been a Ruthian power presence in New York over the past three seasons, and is pacing the Bronx Bombers again this year with 23 home runs at the break.
Josh Hamilton (Texas Rangers) - 404 feet, 387 feet, 406 feet, 425 feet
Last but certainly not least, no one has impressed the baseball stratosphere this year as much as Josh Hamilton, who is putting up some of the gaudiest numbers seen in years. Tied with Joey Bats for the home run lead (27), Hamilton has also been one of the league’s best feel-good stories of the past 10 years, overcoming a crippling drug addiction to become one of the best hitters in the game. The pinnacle of his hit parade came on May 8 of this year, when Hamilton topped both Ryan Braun and Curtis Granderson, by belting four homers in one game to tie the MLB record.