Image credit: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats during the T-Mobile Home Run Derby at T-Mobile Park on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
SEATTLE — Sixteen years ago, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. stood on the field as an 8-year-old and watched as his dad, Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero Sr., became just the third Dominican player to win a Home Run Derby.
Guerrero Jr. stood front and center on national television as his father accepted the Home Run Derby trophy and raised it high above his head. He joined in a joyous family celebration on the field, bouncing up and down for all to see. It was a moment that made an imprint on Guerrero Jr.’s life, and gave him the aspiration to one day be a Home Run Derby champion himself.
On Monday night, he did just that.
Guerrero smashed 25 home runs in the final round to outlast Randy Arozarena and win the Home Run Derby at T-Mobile Park. With the victory, the Guerreros became the first father-son duo to be Home Run Derby champions.
“To be honest I don’t remember much about 2007,” Guerrero Jr. said via an interpreter. “I guess I was too young, but I’m very proud that my father and I both won the derby.”
Guerrero defeated Mookie Betts, 26-11, in the first round and hometown favorite Julio Rodriguez, 21-20, in the second round. He kicked off the final round with 25 home runs and sweated out the final seconds as Arozarena attempted a furious comeback, but the Rays outfielder fell just short and finished with 23 homers.
As the final seconds ticked off and the buzzer sounded, Guerrero giddily sidestepped from the first base dugout toward the mound and began his celebration as champion. After playfully greeting Arozarena with the Rays outfielder’s signature cross-armed pose and giving him a hug, Guerrero accepted the Home Run Derby trophy in the middle of the field and raised it high above his head, just as his father did all those years ago.
“I’m here because my family asked me to be here,” Guerrero said. “For the last few years they have asked me to do it. I agreed and I won, so I’m very thankful for the support of my family.”
Guerrero’s championship capped a wild Home Run Derby that featured signature moments from the outset. Arozarena kicked off the festivities with 24 home runs and beat Rangers outfielder Adolis Garcia, a close friend and the godfather of his daughter.
Adley Rutschman, a native of the Pacific Northwest who grew up going to Mariners games and was drafted by the Mariners in the 40th round out of high school, returned to his childhood stadium and pounded 21 home runs batting lefthanded to kick off his round. In bonus time, the switch-hitter flipped around and homered on his first six swings batting righthanded, plus another that didn’t count because it came after the buzzer sounded.
With Rutschman’s iconic switch-hitting power performance still on everyone’s minds, Luis Robert stepped up and quickly eliminated Rutschman from the Derby. The White Sox slugger pounded 28 home runs to beat Rutschman without even needing his full bonus time. Robert sent seven homers more than 440 feet, including the longest blast of the round at 470 feet.
And yet, that still wasn’t the top moment of the first round.
With a raucous sellout crowd alternately roaring and blaring his name in unison, Rodriguez stepped to the plate and blasted 41 home runs, a record for a single round. He homered on 10 of his first 11 swings and never slowed down, sending ball after ball screaming into the left-field bleachers. He hit 25 home runs that went at least 400 feet and never went more than two consecutive swings without a homer. When it was over, he turned toward his adoring fans behind the plate and spread his arms as wide as he could, letting the thunderous applause wash over him.
But the exertion of the first round tired Rodriguez, setting the stage for Guerrero to surpass him. Rodriguez opened the second round with just 20 home runs and visibly tired as the minutes ticked away. Guerrero tied that mark in regulation and eliminated Rodriguez with a home run 17 seconds into the bonus round, securing his berth to the finals.
Guerrero, with no rest in between rounds, promptly went out and hit 25 more homers—including homers on 10 straight swings at one point—to build a solid lead. Arozarena hit 21 homers in regulation and two more in the bonus round, but came up empty on his last three swings to make Guerrero champion.
“Obviously, the power that he has was incredible,” Arozarena said. “For me, I felt good going into that round. But you know, Vladdy was able to get more bonus time, and I just ran out of time.”
Guerrero previously reached the Home Run Derby finals in 2019 but lost to Pete Alonso. He hit 91 home runs that year, a record for the most in a single derby that still stands. He hit just 72 home runs this time, but when all was said and done, that was enough to become champion.
“Definitely to win it (is better),” Guerrero said.
In the finals of the High School Home Run Derby held in between the first and second rounds, Summerville (S.C.) High outfielder P.J. Morlando hit eight home runs to beat Lewisburg (Olive Branch, Miss.) third baseman Samuel Richardson and win the title. Morlando’s eight homers came on top of the 24 he hit in the opening rounds prior to the Futures Game on July 8.