Home Run Derby X: Meet the sluggers

Saturday 9 July is a big day for sport. Wimbledon hosts the Women’s Singles Final, the eighth stage of the Tour de France is a punchy section from Dole to Lausanne, the Women’s EURO 2022 continues with a cracking matchup between the Netherlands and Sweden at Brammall Lane, and there is final qualifying for the Austrian F1 Grand Prix.

For me, my focus will be on Crystal Palace in Sarf London at the MLB Home Run Derby X.

Five years ago, the idea of any MLB event happening in my country during my lifetime seemed a pipedream. Now, we have already had one London Series, and there are three more to salivate over during the next five years, plus we have this fresh and exciting new Home Run Derby X competition.

Make sure you check out our previous article about the format of the competition and the innovative scoring system. In this article, we will look at the 16 participants.

Instead of individual sluggers competing against each other, Home Run Derby X features four of the most iconic MLB teams: Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Chicago Cubs.

Each team comprises four members:

  • SUPERSTAR from women’s baseball/softball

The Participants: MLB LEGENDS

Jonny Gomes (Boston Red Sox)

Boston Red Sox legend, Jonny Gomes holds the 2013 World Series trophy during an honorary retirement ceremony for David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox in his final regular-season game at Fenway

Drafted in the 18th round by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2001, Gomes produced an epic career as a power and speed all-rounder. A veteran of seven teams, the 41-year-old was an integral part of the Red Sox’ 2013 World Series championship team.

  • 1,203 games
  • 835 hits
  • 163 home runs
  • 526 RBI
  • 3.5 WAR

If you haven’t already listened to it, check out the recent podcast where Jonny Gomes joins John McGee live in front of the crowd at Home Run House, Stratford, at the MLB UK Community/Bat Flips & Nerds/BSUK/MLB Europe event.

Geovanny Soto (Chicago Cubs)

Geovanny Soto, Chicago legend, looks on prior to the spring training game against the Los Angeles Angels

In 2008, there were few players in the game better than the Chicago Cubs’ 25-year-old catcher. With 23 homers with an .868 OPS, Soto easily clinched the Rookie of the Year award ahead of a promising young Canadian first baseman in Cincinnati.

The Puerto Rican catcher also played for the Rangers, A’s, White Sox, and Angels and most recently represented the Puerto Rican champions, Criollos de Caguas, in the 2021 Caribbean Series (Serie del Caribe). Don’t forget he is still in his 30s – there are a lot of great hits to come from Soto’s bat.

  • 797 games
  • 619 hits
  • 108 home runs
  • 361 RBI
  • 12.0 WAR

Adrián González (Los Angeles Dodgers)

In the days of Petco Park sapping power and the Padres being bottom dwellers, Adrián González was the most underrated slugger in the game. Over an outrageous 11-year peak in his career, Adrián posted 134 OPS+ (34% better than average).

Part of the blockbuster trade of the decade, the five-time All-Star moved from Boston to LA in a nine-player deal that set the Dodgers on their current path of dynastical dominance.

Of the four legends on display at Crystal Palace, Adrián looks like the one to beat. Just last season, he put up a .943 OPS in the Mexican League with Guadalajara.

  • 1,929 games
  • 2,050 hits
  • 317 home runs
  • 1,202 RBI
  • 43.5 WAR

You can follow Adrián on Twitter @Adrian_ElTitan

Nick Swisher (New York Yankees)

Epic photo of Nick Swisher in conversation with Billy Beane.

If any single player epitomises “Moneyball”, it is Nick Swisher. The book devoted a whole chapter to the A’s desire to secure Swisher in the draft. After four successful seasons in Oakland, Nick spent a year with the White Sox before making his mark in the Big Apple with almost 600 games in the Yankees’ outfield. Always patient at the plate, the All-Star swatted 20+ homers in nine straight seasons.

Nick’s enthusiasm is contagious, as demonstrated in his recent chat with John McGee in one of the most engaging Bat Flips & Nerds podcasts. Trust me; you can’t listen without smiling.

  • 1,527 games
  • 1,338 hits
  • 245 home runs
  • 803 RBI
  • 21.5 WAR

The Participants: SUPERSTARS

Paige Halstead (Boston Red Sox)

Standing 6-foot-4, Paige was an international catcher for the US softball team and one of the youngest members on the Team USA Olympic squad. She was also part of the team that won the gold medal in the WBSC before becoming a professional softball player in the USA in the Athletes Unlimited league.

You can follow Paige on Twitter @paigehalstead

Ashton Lansdell (Los Angeles Dodgers)

In the 2019 COPABE Women’s Pan-American Championships, Ashton’s achievements are beyond the wildest imagination of video game designers. She hit .583 with 1.810 OPS – that is not a typo! She also went 3-for-3 on the base paths and played excellent defence. And if that wasn’t enough, the shortstop with swag took to the mound for a 2-0 record without allowing a run.

You can follow Ashton on Twitter @lansde11

Alex Hugo (Chicago Cubs)

The transition from Team USA softball sensation to Team USA baseball MVP was effortless for Alex, who was born to mash. 

She played in every game of the COPABE Women’s Pan-American Championships and led the team offensively with a staggering slash line of .652/.742/1.391. Plus, she went six out of six to lead the team in stolen bases.

It’s tough to keep up with all her awards: All-Tournament award for the best batter, All-Tournament award for most home runs, Most Valuable Player, and 2019 USA Baseball Sportswoman of the Year Award.

You can follow Alex on Twitter @16newt

Erika Piancastelli (New York Yankees)

Professional softball player in the inaugural Athletes Unlimited league, Erika hit .327 with nine home runs in just 15 games.

If you were glued to your screen during the Tokyo Olympic Games, you probably saw her captain the European champions, Team Italy. Representing her country in the Olympics was the emulation of a feat achieved by her mother 21 years earlier.

You can follow Erika on Twitter @Uurka_20

The Participants: WILD CARDS

Spencer Owen (Chicago Cubs)

British YouTube star and founder of Hashtag United, Spencer has a secret weapon in his attempt to help the Cubs to victory… he is working with Great Britain’s pitching & catching coordinator, Will Lintern.

Spencer describes himself as the “least-talented sportsman of the four Wild Cards”, but even the modesty of such a claim cannot hide Spencer’s extraordinary drive and his desire to get the best results out of both himself and his teammates.

The former FIFA champion suggests his height (6-foot-0) might give him an advantage over the other Wild Card participants [Editors note: doubtful], but if enthusiasm and self-belief scored points, Spencer’s Chicago Cubs would already have the lead.

You can follow Spencer literally everywhere, but his Twitter handle is @SpencerOwen

Kwak Yoongy (Los Angeles Dodgers)

A true superstar in his field, Kwak will likely be the fastest person in Crystal Palace on Saturday, 9 July. The speed skater is a double-Olympic medalist with an incredible haul of 34 World Cup medals to his name.

Maybe the recently-retired Korean superstar can follow the career trajectory of fellow speed skater Eddy Alvarez who transitioned to baseball. Alvarez medalled in both the 2014 Winter Olympics (speed skating) and 2020 Summer Olympics (baseball) and has played 11 times for the Dodgers this season.

And who knows, maybe we will even get a few dance moves from Kwak, the guy who emulated K-POP superstars BTS, from the Olympic podium.

Liv Cooke (Boston Red Sox)

Lancashire-born Liv Cooke is the first female World Champion football freestyler and a five-time world record holder. She doesn’t undertake challenges lightly, so Liv demonstrated her seriousness about representing the Red Sox with tough training sessions with Jonny Gomes.

The London crowd (and us with Bat Flips & Nerds affiliation) will be hoping for some bat flip-worthy dingers from the Brit.

You can follow Liv on Twitter @LivCookefs

Daniel Corral (New York Yankees)

In a nation of 130 million people, Daniel Corral is one of the greatest gymnasts Mexico has ever produced. Without doubt, the three-time Olympian has the strength and determination to succeed, but can he connect the bat with the ball more effectively than his other Wild Card rivals?

The pommel horse superstar, who tied Brit Max Whitlock for the silver medal in the 2013 World Championship, is continually looking to improve: “If I take 100 swings, in my mind, I want to do a good job with 100 swings. It’s impossible to be perfect, but I always try to push myself.”

You can follow Daniel on Twitter @danielcorralmx

The Participants: ROOKIES

The decision by MLB to choose four players from Great Britain’s development system rather than from the depths of the Cubs’, Yankees’, Red Sox’, and Dodgers’ depth chart is outstanding. On Saturday, 9 July, we will be cheering for home runs from GB National team members.

Richard Brereton III (New York Yankees)

London-born, Richard’s baseball career started with tee-ball as a 4-year-old in the USA. A pitcher for Duke University Blue Devils, he has been part of the GB National organisation since he was a junior, when he hit .429 (1.049 OPS) in the European Championships in 2015.

Richard, who has played in over 10 countries for the GB National team, signed as a free agent with the Cubs in 2021 and, accordingly to MLB’s press release, “is known for his big hits, with his longest home run reaching a whopping 450ft.”

You can follow Richard on Twitter @rbrereton3

Zach Stroman (Los Angeles Dodgers)

Despite being born in North London, Zach was always destined to play baseball. He started playing as a 4-year-old (that’s the advantage of having parents from Indiana), and Zach joined the London Mets while still at junior school.

Zach, who graduated from St Ambrose University (USA), returned to the UK to become a linchpin of the GB National Team and the London Mets. You can currently see the first baseman in action for the London Mets in the WBSC Federation Cup in Belgium.

You can follow Zach on Twitter @zdstroman

Kennard Dawson (Boston Red Sox)

Originally from the British Virgin Islands, Dawson was recruited to play for Great Britain’s U23 side and the National team last autumn for the 2021 World Baseball Classic qualifiers. We all know what happened to another Caribbean-born, former GB National player, Jazz Chisholm.

Kennard will play for Brewton-Parker College in Mt. Vernon, Georgia, during the upcoming season.

You can follow KD on Twitter @KennardDawson

Jordan Edmonds (Chicago Cubs)

A taster session at Horsham Junior Baseball Club was the catalyst to start Jordan’s baseball career. He eased through the GB Academy: cadets, juniors, U23, and seniors, and after playing at college in Canada, he played baseball in Australia and Germany.

Now back in the UK, Jordan is part of the London Mets’ Bash Brothers (with Zach Stroman). Like Zach, Jordan is currently in action for the London Mets in the WBSC Federation Cup in Belgium. 

You can follow the temporary Cubs fan on Twitter @JordanEdmonds15

Tickets, which start at £ 33.00, are still available from Ticketmaster. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to be at the first-ever Home Run Derby X. If you like baseball, music, and ballpark food, then hopefully, we will see you at Crystal Palace on Saturday, 9 July.

Photo credits: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images. Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images.

Information credits: It wasn’t easy to find information about the SUPERSTARS, WILD CARDS and ROOKIES, so I am indebted to Michael Clair’s excellent preview articles and Matthew Mutton’s must-listen British Baseball Podcasts. Plus, a shoutout to MLB Europe for the excellent graphics that I “borrowed.”

Gav Tramps is one of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips & Nerds. You can follow him (although he’s a little boring) on Twitter @GavTramps. Alternatively, if you have a baseball opinion or a story to tell, why not “write for us“?

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