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Julio Rodriguez

Julio Rodriguez chases history at Home Run Derby

Julio Rodriguez excited to put on show for hometown fans

HOUSTON – With the Home Run Derby less than a week away, Julio Rodriguez intends to establish himself in the history books. The Seattle Mariners star hopes to be one of the few players to win the Home Run Derby at their home ballpark. 

Seattle will play host to the All-Star Game for the third time in their franchise history. The Mariners first held the Midsummer Classic at the Kingdome in 1979. The All-Star Game was back in 2001 when T-Mobile Stadium was called Safeco Park.

Seattle has held the Home Run Derby only once, though, because the event was not officially part of the All-Star festivities until 1985.

“It means a lot getting an opportunity in the All-Star Game and to participate in the Home Run Derby,” Rodriguez said. “It’ll be a little different because the Home Run Derby will be in Seattle. In fact, the experience will be a lot better than last year.”

While many have tried to win the Home Run Derby in front of their home fans, only three players have accomplished the feat. Ryne Sandberg of the Cubs won the Derby in 1990 at Wrigley Field.

The Reds’ Todd Frazier won it in 2015 at Great American Ballpark. Former Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper won the tournament in 2018 at Nationals Park. 

Julio Rodriguez lit up Dodger Stadium

Rodriguez stole the show at the 2022 Home Run Derby at Dodger Stadium. He launched 81 home runs, which was second to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the most home runs in a single Derby. Rodriguez overcame the two-time champion Pete Alonso in the second round. 

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He eventually lost to Dominican countryman Juan Soto in the final round. With his home fans filling up the Electric Factory, the 2022 Home Run Derby runner-up is excited about having the home crowd on his side.

“It would mean a lot for sure,” Rodriguez said about winning the Home Run Derby. “It’s a beautiful competition. Being able to come out victorious would be a beautiful thing. It was a beautiful experience participating in the Home Run Derby. I want to relive it in Seattle.”

Building on Rookie of the Year campaign

The 2022 AL Rookie of the Year’s game plan is simple: see the ball, pick the pitch, and make the swing to hit the ball over the fence. 

If the Loma de Cabrera, D.R., native is victorious, Rodriguez has the chance to be a part of an elite company. He can potentially become the sixth Dominican Republic player to win the Home Run Derby, joining Soto, David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero Sr., Miguel Tejada and Sammy Sosa.

Rodriguez, 22, had a rookie season to remember in 2022. His 28 home runs, 75 RBIs and .853 OPS were good enough to take home the Silver Slugger and to edge Houston’s Jeremy Peña for the AL Rookie of the Year. 

The 6-foot-3 center fielder hit a rough patch this June. He hit .220, struck out 27 times and hit only three home runs. Julio Rodriguez’s play early in the season and a hot July helped him garner a second trip to the Midsummer Classic.

Late addition

He is replacing Cuban slugger Yordan Alvarez, who is injured. With 13 home runs this season, he is the seventh seed in the Home Run Derby.

“First of all Julio is super talented,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “This year hasn’t been as easy as it was for him in the second half of the season last year. The league is adjusting to him a little bit. Second year through the league is usually the most challenging.

“He has picked it up of late and played very well. Starting to swing the bat like he is capable of on a consistent basis. He is a dynamic player.”

Rodriguez will try to become the second Mariner to win the Home Run Derby. Mariners legend and Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., won a record three Home Run Derby titles. Julio Rodriguez has been compared favorably to Griffey.

Now he’ll have a chance to give local fans a special memory on Monday with Griffey in their building.

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