Corey Seager known as his father on Thursday to ask Jeff Seager how lengthy it had been since he practiced batting. It may need appeared like a bizarre query, however there was a really particular purpose behind it: Corey wished his dad to throw him within the Residence Run Derby.
Jeff Seager did not instantly say sure. As an alternative, he drove the two miles to Northwest Cabarrus Excessive Faculty, the place he threw 1,000,000 hours of batting follow at his sons in cages the Seagers had a key to. Jeff Seager loosened his arm – and apparently felt good, as he shortly known as Corey again to provide him the okay.
Seager will doubtless be a Dodger Stadium crowd favourite within the derby as he returns to Los Angeles for the primary time since signing with the Texas Rangers as a free agent within the offseason. He can have an intensive understanding of how the balloon will transfer within the late afternoon on a scorching California day. He will likely be surrounded by acquainted faces, from safety to clubhouse attendants. However probably the most rewarding a part of the occasion for Seager will likely be sharing this second together with his father. “He in all probability threw me probably the most in my life,” Corey mentioned in a telephone dialog this week. “You do what makes you most comfy.”
“It should be a very thrilling time, in so some ways.”
When Corey made the derby in 2016 in San Diego, Jeff Seager pitched to him as effectively. Corey remembers his father being fairly nervous at first, “however then he type of locked himself away.”
Because the final confirmed competitor, solely 72 hours from the derby, Seager has not deliberate to coach, to regain the rhythm of the occasion, the fatigue that eats away at many opponents. “No, I am going to simply get away with it,” he mentioned, though he added, “I am going to positively attempt to shoot the ball.”
A take a look at a few of the pictures and pitchers of different Residence Run Derby sluggers:
For the slugger who has seemingly mastered the artwork of the Residence Run Derby like no different participant, there was little question who he would select to throw at him – the person who may very well be thought of the business normal for the batting follow pitching, 65-year-old Dave Jauss.
In 2021, Jauss coached the Mets and helped Alonso dominate the Colorado derby. After the Mets modified managers and most of their teaching workers, Jauss accepted a job with the Washington Nationals. However Alonso approached him throughout spring coaching to verify that if Alonso was again within the derby, Jauss would pitch to him once more.
In truth, he was Alonso’s teammate, Jeff McNeil, who first leaked the information to Jauss. “So you recognize, Pete goes to ask you once more,” McNeil mentioned.
Jauss has a protracted historical past within the derby. He and Clint Hurdle pitched to all opponents in 1999, when the occasion was at Fenway Park, and after his efficiency with Alonso final summer time, Jauss was requested to pitch to batters within the Main’s Residence Run Derby X League Baseball. nationals, Jauss was in London earlier this 12 months and has deliberate journeys to South Korea and Mexico within the coming months.
His potential to pitch constantly in batting follow, Jauss mentioned with amusing, is what “saved me within the sport. I am not sporting the Wally The Inexperienced Monster costume, and I do not want being Abraham Lincoln because the Presidents race.”
The throwing expertise within the derby was enriched by sharing the expertise with Alonso, whose household embraced Jauss and his household. “He is a high quality man and good for the business,” Jauss mentioned.
Like Alonso, Soto makes it clear his aim is to win. Final 12 months, Soto launched Shohei Ohtani in a savage first-round conflict, and what he realized from that evening will inform his strategy on this 12 months’s derby. “I will do the identical as final 12 months – I am not going to attempt to hit moonshots,” he mentioned. “I am simply gonna be constant [with my swing].”
The city legend surrounding the derby is that batters sometimes mess up their swings all through the occasion, forcing attendees to take the type of hasty hacks they might by no means make of their day by day prep. However Soto talked about final 12 months that he felt the derby helped him, placing his aggression and swing on observe for a second half during which Soto generated a .333/ .485/.601. That have received Soto into this 12 months’s occasion, and he requested Jorge Mejia to introduce him. He labored extensively with Soto; the 2 met when Soto was 17. “He was my batting coach the offseason,” Soto mentioned.
Mejia’s supply, Soto mentioned, permits him to see the ball effectively – a three-quarter transfer, neither too excessive nor too low. “He is fairly correct,” Soto mentioned.
Rodriguez is 21 and ranks among the many youngest opponents in Residence Run Derby historical past, however he is been questioned sufficient to know this: he is not going to care about distance, he is simply going over the fence. “I am not going to attempt to hit the ball the farthest,” he mentioned over the telephone. Slightly, his hope is that he will get loads of throws within the space so he can constantly ship the ball by means of the air and over the fence, whereas conserving a few of his power for the swings to observe.
Rodriguez’s intention was to coach over the weekend, to at the very least check out the timed format, to determine what to anticipate. His batting follow pitcher, Franmy Peña, was in Texas over the weekend, with a locker subsequent to Rodriguez’s, as a part of their derby prep.
Peña’s household runs a baseball academy within the Dominican Republic, and Rodriguez mentioned that with out Franmy and his father, he did not consider he would make it to the occasion. Peña performed within the minor leagues with the Rockies and Brewers organizations a decade in the past, serving as a catcher for a lot of that point. Among the finest batting follow pitchers are former catchers due to their brief, correct arm motion. Peña throws quite a lot of batting follow at him, Rodriguez mentioned, and may be very constant.
After all, pitching batting practices is completely different when it is in a stadium that will likely be jam-packed like Dodger Stadium will likely be on Monday, a truth Rodriguez acknowledged. Over time, skittish and imprecise pitchers have generally sabotaged derby individuals. “However he is prepared for it,” Rodriguez mentioned.
The idea amongst some opponents is that have will likely be essential to beating Alonso, and nobody has extra derby expertise than Pujols, who’s participating on this occasion for the fifth time. He’ll set an age document within the derby – at 42 years and 183 days, he’s greater than 2 years older than Barry Bonds, who was 39 years and 353 days when he reached the semi-finals in 2004.
Pujols can be greater than 8 years older than the oldest winner, Dave Parker, who was 34 when he took his swing in 1985 – and, associated, Pujols has probably the most house runs (685) of any competitor on the time.
Pujols requested Kleininger Teran, the Cardinals bullpen catcher and an everyday follow batting pitcher, to pitch for him.
A couple of weeks in the past, Schwarber appeared reluctant to swing within the derby. However realizing that the occasion wants one of the best energy hitters, he modified his thoughts. Earlier than making a ultimate name, he reached out to the batting follow pitcher who pitched to him in 2018 when he practically edged out Bryce Harper in Washington. Mike Sanicola performed on the College of Miami and pitched at Schwarber within the offseason. Schwarber and others name him Cash as a result of his batting follow is so constant.
“Would you love to do it?” requested Schwarber.
“Completely,” Cash replied.
What Schwarber realized about Sanicola in 2018, he mentioned, is that Sanicola “is not going to be outdone proper now. He is received sufficient confidence in himself.”
Schwarber mentioned his personal conclusion is that he actually would not need to attempt to hit each pitch. Quite the opposite, it’s higher to be affected person and keep comfy on pitches that he can drive. “Fixed rocking might not have been one of the best technique,” he mentioned. “However do not get me fallacious, you will be working at a quick tempo.”
Left-handed hitter Schwarber largely fired the ball that 12 months, when he got here in second to Harper, however this time round he thinks he’ll attempt to drive the ball by means of middle or right-center. His candy spot? “Anyplace within the strike zone,” he laughed. “Purpose for the center, and we’ll go from there.”
Most derby hitters will attempt to intention for a part of the park – like Todd Frazier, who tried to shoot all pitches to left discipline. However when right-handed hitter Acuña was within the derby in 2019, he stood out from different opponents by throwing the ball all over. “He has energy on the opposing courtroom and he can placed on a present,” Braves coach Tomas Perez mentioned.
It was Perez who pitched to Acuña that 12 months — a Venezuelan native who pitches to a fellow Venezuelan — and he’ll do it once more in Los Angeles. He and Acuña had talked for weeks about returning to the occasion, and about three weeks in the past the Braves outfielder formally received the invite. “Everybody in my nation goes to be watching,” mentioned Perez, who bats at Acuña on the Braves’ day by day routine. “Hopefully we will do it proper, and will probably be quite a lot of enjoyable for the followers, for our nation.”
Acuña and Perez agreed to follow somewhat over the weekend in Washington – one minute timed. The candy spot that Perez says he’ll intention for whereas working for Acuña: inside just a bit, within the higher a part of the strike zone just a bit.
As Ramirez defined by means of an interpreter, the derby is one thing he is at all times wished to do, partially for these round him, for his mum. “My household could not watch for me to do it,” he mentioned.
And the person throwing her may as effectively be household. Over a decade in the past, Junior Betances had usually heard from a buddy about his nephew, what a particular baseball expertise he was, so Betances discovered time to look at the child. It was the primary time he had seen Ramirez, then 17 years previous.
Then, in his position as a minor league batting coach, Betances labored with Ramirez, guiding him into skilled baseball. Given all this shared historical past, Ramirez contacted Betances, who now works for the Guardians’ Double-A affiliate, final week and requested if he wished to take part within the derby. For Betances, it was an emotional second.
“It is superb,” Betances mentioned. “I am so excited, and I admire it a lot.”