International MLB home-run derby captured by Venezuela's Abreu
Jul 12, 2005, 7:47 GMT
Washington - International flavour dominated the start of the mid-season break in Major League Baseball, despite the sport's banishment last week from the Olympics.
The MLB's All-Star Game festivities began Monday in Detroit with a home run derby that for the first time saw eight players selected to represent eight different countries in the power-hitting exhibition.
Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu, a native Venezuelan, crushed balls and splintered his own bat in a performance unprecedented in the 15-year history of the home run competition.
Walking to home plate at Detroit's Comerica Park, Abreu was the first to hit Monday and put on a 17-minute clinic, knocking a record 24 balls over the fence in the first round. The previous one-round record in the major-league home run derby was 15.
Each player continued hitting until he had made 10 unsuccessful swings. Late in his first-round effort, Abreu was forced to find a replacement wooden bat after the barrel of his broke on a ball that still left the park.
In the second round, with the eight hitters reduced to four, Abreu added six more homers, enough to reach the final round against Detroit Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez, swinging in front of his home fans but representing Puerto Rico.
Abreu found his groove again in the finals, launching 11 balls compared to five by Rodriguez.
The three-round total of 41 was astonishing, demolishing the previous home-run derby record of 27.
Other Venezuelan players in attendance made calls home by mobile phone and told Abreu that all of Venezuela was watching, enthralled. "They with me right now," the long-ball champ told a television interviewer.
Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, representing the baseball-mad Dominican Republic, knocked what would have been a record-breaking 17 homers in the first round but was eliminated in the second round, along with Milwaukee Brewer outfield Carlos Lee, a native Panamanian.
The first-round casualties were Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jason Bay of Canada, Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Hee-Seop Choi of South Korea, Texas Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira representing the United States and Atlanta Braves outfield Andruw Jones, a native of Curacao, an island colony of the Netherlands.
The major-league All-Star Game, an annual exhibition, will be played Tuesday night in Detroit between the top players representing the American League and National League.© dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur