Pirates’ Josh Bell bows out in first round of Home Run Derby
CLEVELAND — Josh Bell knows a baseball game when he sees one.
What unraveled Monday night at Progressive Field during the MLB’s Home Run Derby had bats and balls, TV cameras everywhere you turned and an announced crowd of 36,119. But Bell knows this:
“It wasn’t really baseball in my mind,” the Pittsburgh Pirates’ slugger said. “Money on the table. It’s up for grabs. Go get it.”
Bell failed in his first Derby, bowing out when the Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr., the National League’s reigning Rookie of the Year, hit 25 home runs to his 18 in the first round.
Swinging from his heels and trying to hit a home run every time goes against his usual approach at the plate. Bell, who hit one that left his bat at 112 mph and landed 459 feet from home plate, usually agonizes over every detail of his swing, but he admitted Monday, “I was hackin.’ “
“It was fun, didn’t win, wanted to,” he said, “but it was cool to share this experience with Jon (Schwind, his best friend and Derby pitcher) and hitting in front of my family.
“Better luck another time.”
The $1 million first prize — from a pool of $2.5 million — went to the New York Mets’ Pete Alonso, who won the final round against 6-foot-2, 250-pound Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays, 23-22. Guerrero Jr., who has only eight real home runs this season, totaled 91 in all three rounds after he needed two 60-second tiebreakers to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Joc Pederson, 40-39.
Alonso finished with 57 and became the first Mets player to win the Derby outright. Darryl Strawberry shared it with Wally Joyner in 1986.
“Unreal atmosphere,” said Bell, who will bat sixth and be the National League’s starting designated hitter Tuesday night in the All-Star Game. “Joc ‘s showdown took the cake for me. Pete, what he did in that last round was lights out. It was awesome to watch.”
Bell didn’t want it to end.
“You wanted more tiebreakers,” he said. “I kind of felt bad for them because they were tired, but it was definitely a fun show to watch.”
Bell appeared most impressed by Guerrero Jr., a 20-year-old whose namesake father is a Hall of Famer and the winner of the 2007 Derby.
“Ten years from now, 15 years from now, does he put on the same show? Probably,” Bell said, “because he’s a monster.”
The Derby is as much a test of endurance as it is pure strength.
“I was exhausted to say the least, going for the long ball today,” said Bell, who nonetheless hit five home runs in the last of his initial four minutes. “Didn’t get it, but I think I did a good job of putting on a decent show. Something I can look back on.
“I didn’t have the strength today. Hopefully, I can have it (Tuesday) for the All-Star Game.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .