Wright, Cano named Home Run Derby captains
Slugging event to be held at Citi Field gets even more Empire State flavor
NEW YORK -- After finishing second in the Home Run Derby seven years ago, Mets third baseman David Wright hinted that he might never take part in the event again.
So much for that. Not only will Wright participate once more, he will be front and center for this year's Derby at Citi Field.
Major League Baseball on Tuesday named Wright and Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano captains for the All-Star Week event, which will feature a decidedly New York flavor. Stars of their respective boroughs, Wright and Cano will shoulder the task of drafting Derby squads for the National and American Leagues.
"This is a once-in-a-career type opportunity to be able to captain the Home Run Derby team at home," Wright said. "To have Robbie on one side and me on the other, that's a tremendous opportunity. I'm thankful that Major League Baseball asked and wanted me."
For Wright, the event should be quite different than in 2006, when he was almost an afterthought despite leading all third basemen with 20 home runs at the break. It was not until Wright launched a Derby-leading 16 home runs in the first round that he announced his presence as a contender, running out of gas late to finish as the runner-up behind Ryan Howard of the Phillies.
In the years since, Wright has shown little interest in an encore performance, despite his popularity in New York City. No Mets player has participated in the Derby since 2006.
"There's probably a lot of more deserving home run hitters," said Wright, whose eight homers are tied for 27th in the NL. "But I'm glad they thought about me. Having the All-Star Game here in New York and doing the Mets-Yankees thing, that's pretty cool. I jumped at it."
Cano, meanwhile, has experienced both ends of the Derby spectrum. In his first year as a participant, Cano clubbed 32 homers over three rounds -- including a final-round record of 12 -- to edge Adrian Gonzalez, then of the Red Sox.
The American League named Cano its Derby captain the following summer, resulting in a bit of controversy. When Cano declined to select hometown favorite Billy Butler for the event in Kansas City, fans at Kauffman Stadium booed the Yankees star throughout the night. Cano finished without a single home run, admitting later that "sometimes you make a decision and it's not the right one."
"Honestly, yeah," Cano said when asked if serving as captain will be easier this year. "Now that you're in New York, you get to pick whoever you want. Now I don't have to pick David Wright because he's on the other side. Now you do it at home, where you have your crowd and the greatest fans in the world get a chance to see you swinging in the Home Run Derby."
In choosing their squads, Wright and Cano will lean on the suggestions of fans, who will once again participate in the Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans will have the opportunity to select three players in each league whom they would most like to see participate in the event. The 2013 Home Run Derby -- part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day -- will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio in the United States beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Monday, July 15.
All-Star voting is also still ongoing, with Cano leading the way among AL second basemen. Wright ranks second at third base behind San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval, and he'll need a late push to start for the NL team. Fans may submit 25 online ballots during the voting period, but they can also earn a one-time bonus of 10 additional online ballots by being logged into an MLB.com account when submitting any online ballot. Those without an MLB.com account may visit www.mlb.com and register in accordance with the enrollment instructions.
No longer the extreme pitchers' park that it was in its first three seasons, Citi Field should provide some interesting dimensions for the Derby thanks to a series of alterations made last year. Right-handed hitters will find their best opportunities down the left-field line, where the foul pole stands just 335 feet away. Those with natural opposite-field power, like Wright, will also find Citi's new dimensions to their liking; it is now much easier to hit one over the fence in right-center field.
Left-handers will shoot for that target as well, while those with enough pop will be able to reach the Shea Bridge in right-center. Down the line in right, fans sitting in the Pepsi Porch may have the best chance for souvenirs of anyone in the park.
Wright indicated that he will keep those dimensions in mind when he begins the process of choosing his team, which he jokingly referred to as "open tryouts."
"I have to do some scouting, start maybe having some of the number-crunchers crunch some numbers for me, see who swings the ball well here in New York," Wright said. "I'm not sure yet."
Whomever Wright picks will have an opportunity to joke and hang out with his fellow All-Stars along each sideline.
"I love it," said Cano, a two-time participant. "I would say that's one of the fun things in the All-Star Game. That's the only time I get a chance to spend time, not only with your American League players but with both sides. You get a chance to take a photo; those are memories you can take and show your kids later on, when you retire."
This year's Home Run Derby will raise funds for Boys & Girls Clubs of America and MLB's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, as well as charities selected by the captains. More than $3 million has been raised for charity over the past ten years, with an all-time high of $615,000 donated through the 2012 event.