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Volume 23 No. 14
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Home Run Derby a powerful performer for ESPN

Blue Jays rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. stole the show at the Home Run Derby, though he ultimately finished second.
Photo: Getty images
Blue Jays rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. stole the show at the Home Run Derby, though he ultimately finished second.
Photo: Getty images
Blue Jays rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. stole the show at the Home Run Derby, though he ultimately finished second.
Photo: Getty images

The Angels’ Mike Trout and the Yankees’ Edwin Encarnación and Gary Sanchez led the American League in home runs at the All-Star break. None participated in the Home Run Derby.

The Brewers’ Christian Yelich and Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger led the National League in home runs at the break, but they didn’t participate in the Derby, either. (Yelich was scheduled to take part, but pulled out because of a back injury.)

Their absences did not concern Norby Williamson, ESPN’s executive vice president of event and studio production/executive editor. ESPN started carrying the Home Run Derby in 1993, and it draws big audiences for the nework, including 6.2 million viewers, a 5% increase, on ESPN and ESPN2 for Pete Alonso’s win over Vladimir Guererro Jr. 

“A lot gets made about whether Mike Trout will be in it, and it would be great if he did; maybe he will next year when the game is in Dodger Stadium,” Williamson said last week before the Derby. “But that doesn’t make or break the event. This is an event that is endemic to the sport. It’s a coming-out party for new stars and people who share the stage.”

Williamson referenced a conversation he had with ESPN analyst Mark Teixeira, who participated in the 2005 event. A Rangers All-Star at the time, Teixeira hit only two homers and did not make it out of the first round.

“He still remembers it, and he still talks about it,” Williamson said. “It’s a big stage and a great event.”