The Home Run Derby may not decide who plays Game Seven of the World Series at home, but this year's event held plenty of intrigue for the crowd at Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark. With Cincinnati Reds' star Todd Frazier competing in the event and a slate of new rules generating extra interest, the GAB crowd was as loud and energized as they would be in the ninth inning of a must-win game in September.
Looking to inject some energy into a popular but somewhat stale event, MLB added a new slate of rules for the annual MLB Home Run Derby contest. (Click here to read the full rundown of the new format.) Each round was set to be five minutes, but with a torrential rain storm set to roll into the Cincinnati area at 11pm Eastern, MLB decided to trim the rounds to four minutes each (plus potential bonus time) to make sure the event wasn't washed out by Mother Nature.
The timed rounds created plenty of drama. There were several rounds decided in the final seconds of regulation or in "bonus time," much to the delight of the fans at Great American Ballpark and the hoards of baseball fans on social media. Major League Baseball couldn't have scripted a better ending to the Derby, as the hometown favorite Frazier took home the crown with a furious flurry of homeruns as the clock clicked down on his final round.
In winning the Derby, Frazier had to take down some stiff competition in each round. In Round One, Frazier squared off against two-time Derby winner Prince Fielder, who put on a show in his four-minute round. Fielder pounded 13 homeruns and Frazier came to the plate looking like a longshot to move on to Round Two. The former hero of the Little League World Series and 2014 Home Run Derby runner-up wasn't going to go down lightly. Frazier hit two homeruns in the final 30 seconds to tie Fielder and then secured his place in Round Two with a blast in bonus time.
In Round Two, Frazier took on Josh Donaldson, the leading All-Star vote-getter and a strong early candidate for AL MVP. Donaldson went first and, after a slow start, cranked nine homers out in his four-minute round. Frazier got to eight homers with more than a minute remaining in his round, but he began to tire as he looked for those last two homeruns to get him into the final. Frazier finally tied Donaldson with roughly 30 seconds on the clock and then he hit the round-winner as the buzzer sounded.
Meanwhile, in the other bracket, Los Angeles took center stage with future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols of the Angels and rising star rookie Joc Pederson of the Dodgers putting on a show. Pujols and Pederson reached the semi-finals and it was a battle to remember. Pederson went first, blasting 12 homeruns to set the bar high for Pujols. "King Albert" looked like he was in position to pull off a late victory, as he sat on 11 homers with time for a few more swings. Pujols wasn't able to hit the ball out with his last two swings, and Pederson moved on to the finals against Frazier.
Pederson once again went first in the final round and he once again gave his competition a challenge. He hit a seemingly insurmountable 14 homeruns. The hometown Reds' crowd roared as Frazier came to the plate needing to hit more homers than anyone else had hit in any round in this year's Derby. Frazier started out slowly, hitting only two homers over his first 45 seconds. He called timeout with 2:35 down in his round with only five homeruns in his column. Then Frazier turned on the juice. During the final two minutes of his round, Frazier crushed homers seven through 14. The round-tying homer came with just 10 seconds left on the clock.
Frazier then had his bonus time to try to take home his first Home Run Derby title. With his first swing in bonus time, Frazier connected on the "walk-off" blast, as the crowd roared in delight. Frazier became just the second player from the host city to win the Home Run Derby. The first was Ryne Sandberg of the Chicago Cubs in 1990.