Corey Seager Jeff Seager called his dad Thursday to ask how long it had been since he missed batting practice. It might seem like an odd request, but there was a special reason behind it: Corey wanted his dad to pitch him in the Home Run Derby.
Jeff Seeger didn’t immediately say yes. Instead, he drove 2 miles to Northwest Cabarrus High School to throw a zillion hours of batting practice for the kids in the tunnels where the Seagers held the keys. Jeff Seeger loosened his grip — and apparently it felt good, because Corey quickly called him to give the OK.
Seager may be the favorite of the Dodger Stadium crowd in the derby, as he returns to LA for the first time since signing as a free agent in the offseason with the Texas Rangers. He has a keen understanding of how the ball travels on a warm California afternoon. He’ll be surrounded by familiar faces, from security to clubhouse attendants. But the most rewarding part of the show for Seager will be spending time with his dad. “It probably hit me the hardest in my life,” Corey said in a phone interview this week. “You’re doing what you’re most comfortable with.”
“It’s going to be a really exciting time, in a lot of ways.”
When Cory did the Derby in San Diego in 2016, Jeff Seeger threw it too. Corey remembers that his father was scared at first, “but then he just got into it.”
As the last confirmed competitor, 72 hours before the Derby, Seager did not plan to do any training, to acquaint himself with the speed of the event, fatigue that overtakes many competitors. “Nah, I’m going to wing it,” he said, though he added, “I’m definitely going to try to pull the ball.”
Here’s a breakdown of some of the plans for the other Home Run Derby sliders:
For a slugger who seems to have mastered the art of the home run derby like no other player, there was no doubt who he was going to throw — a batting practice pitching contest that could be considered the industry standard, 65-year-old Dave Jauss.
In the year In 2021, Jaws was a coach with the Mets and helped Alonso manage the Colorado Derby. After the Mets changed managers and most of their coaching staff, Jauss was hired by the Washington Nationals. But Alonso approached Alonso during spring training to confirm that Jaws would throw him again if he returned to the Derby.
In fact, he was Alonso’s teammate. Jeff McNeilHe broke the news to Jaws first. “So you know, Pete’s going to ask you again,” McNeil said.
Jaws has a long history in the derby. He and Clint Hurdle When the event was at Fenway Park in 1999, they threw out all contenders, and after showing up with Alonso last summer, Jaws was asked to throw for the Gunners in Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby X. National, Jauss was in London earlier this year and has scheduled trips to South Korea and Mexico in the coming months.
His ability to throw consistently in batting practice is what keeps me in the game, Jaws said with a laugh. race”
The experience of throwing the derby was developed by sharing with Alonso his family, which included Jaws and his family. “He’s such a quality guy, and he’s good for the industry,” Jaws said.
Like Alonso, Soto has made it clear that his goal is to win. Last year, Soto released Shohei Ohtani A wild first-round matchup and what he learned from that night will inform his approach in this year’s derby. “I’m going to do the same thing I did last year — I’m not going to try to hit moon shots,” he said. “I’m just going to be consistent [with my swing].”
The urban legend surrounding the derby sometimes mars the activities of the event, requiring participants to take hasty hacks that they would never have known in their day-to-day routines. But Soto said he felt the derby helped him last year, finding his temper and swinging at the track for the second half, and Soto put up a .333/.485/.601 line. That experience is all-encompassing for Soto at this year’s event, and he asked Jorge Mejia to present it to him. He worked extensively with Soto; The two met when Soto was 17 years old. “He was a great coach last season,” Soto said.
Mejia’s delivery, according to Soto, allows him to see the ball well – a three-quarters motion, not too high and not too low. “He’s absolutely right,” Soto said.
Rodriguez is 21 years old and ranks among the youngest competitors in Home Run Derby history, but he’s asked enough of it to know he’s not worried about distance, just clearing the fence. “I don’t try to hit the ball close,” he said by phone. Instead, the hope is to get more pitches in the zone so he can consistently get the ball in the air and on the fence, saving some of his energy for subsequent swings.
Rodriguez’s goal was to practice over the weekend, to at least try out the timed format, to get a feel for what he’s up to. His batting practice pitcher, Franmi Pena, was in Texas over the weekend, holding a locker alongside Rodriguez, as part of their derby preparations.
Pena’s family operates a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, and Rodriguez said he doesn’t believe he would be at the event if it weren’t for Franmi and his father. Pena played in the minor leagues with the Rockies and Brewers organizations over a decade ago, serving as a catcher for much of that time. Some of the best batting practice pitchers are former catchers because they have a short, precise arm action. Pena throws a lot of batting practice, Rodriguez said, and is very consistent.
Of course, taking batting practice will be different in a packed ballpark the way Dodger Stadium was on Monday, a fact Rodriguez acknowledged. Over the years, nervous and errant pitchers have sometimes plagued Derby participants. “He’s ready for it,” Rodriguez said.
Confidence among some of the contenders will be crucial to defeating Alonso, and no one has more Derby experience than Pujols, who is making his fifth appearance at this event. He sets the Derby’s age record – at 42 years and 183 days, more than two years older than Barry Bonds, who was 39 years and 353 days when he reached the semi-finals in 2004.
Pujols is 8 years older than Dave Parker, who hit it off in 1985 at the age of 34 – and at the same time, Pujols has more home runs (685) than any other player at the time.
Pujols asked the Cardinals’ bullpen catcher and regular batting practice pitcher Klinger Terra to throw for him.
A few weeks ago, Schwarber seemed primed for a swing in the Derby. But he changed his mind, realizing that the event needed the best power destroyers. Before making a final call, he reached for the batting practice pitcher he had thrown to him as he neared the end of 2018. Brice Harper in Washington. Mike Sanicola played at the University of Miami and threw to Schwarber at halftime. Schwaber and others refer to it as money because the beating practice is very similar.
“Do you want to do it?” Schwarber asked.
“Absolutely,” Money replied.
Schwarber learned about Sanicola in 2018.
Schwarber said his takeaways mean he doesn’t have to try to hit every pitch. Instead, it’s better to be patient and home in the field where he drives. “Continuous swings probably weren’t the best strategy,” he said. “But make no mistake, you work at a fast pace.”
The left-handed-hitting Schwarber pulls the ball that year, hitting second behind Harper, but this time he figures to try to drive the ball to center or right-center. His sweet spot? “Anywhere in the strike zone,” he said with a laugh. “Aim for the middle and we’ll go from there.”
Most derby skaters go to one part of the park — eg Todd FrazierHe tried to pull all the pitches to left field. But in 2019, the right-handed Acuna stood out from the rest of the competition by lobbing the ball in all directions during the derby. “He has power in the opposite field, and he can put on a show,” Braves manager Thomas Perez said.
It was Perez who pitched to Acuna that year — a native of Venezuela to another Venezuelan — and he met the Braves outfielder three weeks ago after he and Acuna had been talking for weeks about returning to the program in L.A. The invitation is official. “Everybody in my country watches her,” said Perez, who provides Acuna with batting practice for the Braves’ daily routine. “Hopefully, we can do it right, and it will be very exciting for the fans, for our country.”
Acuna and Perez agreed to practice a little over the weekend in Washington — a limited time. The sweet spot that Perez said he’ll be aiming for when working toward Acuna: in the small, upper part of the strike zone.
As Ramirez explained through an interpreter, the derby is something he’s always wanted to do, partly for those around him, his mother. “My family was excited for me to do it,” he said.
And the person who throws it to him can also be family. A decade ago, Junior Betances had been hearing from a friend about what a special baseball talent his nephew had, so Betances found some time to watch the boy. It was the first time he saw the then 17-year-old Ramirez.
Then, in his role as a minor league hitting coach, Betances worked with Ramirez and mentored him in professional baseball. With all that shared history in mind, Ramirez reached out to Betances last week, now working for the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate, and asked him if he wanted to throw in the derby. It was an emotional time for the Betances.
“It’s unbelievable,” Betances said. “I’m very happy, and I really appreciate it.”