RePete Alonso won the Home Run Derby, but Trey Mancini was the true champion Monday night.
A year ago the Orioles’ first baseman was undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed in March with colon cancer. The tumor was removed three weeks later.
It was possible Mancini wouldn’t live. It was possible he wouldn’t play Major League Baseball again. It seemed impossible that he would be back in the game and starting in 2021, hit 15 home runs in the first half of the season, be invited to compete in the Home Run Derby and, yes, beat two other power hitters, including Rockies hometown hero Trevor Story, and reach the finals against the defending champion from the last Derby in ’19 – Alonso.
While the world was suffering through the pandemic, Mancini was enduring his personal deadly disease.
The world is trying to overcome, and Mancini has.
Most of the attention at the 91st All-Star event is on Shohei Ohtani, but Trey’s saga and survival and return and display of courage and resilience, and home run swing Monday evening before an SRO crowd in LoDo and millions belongs now to the legendary history of the game.
The night before All-Star Game was good for baseball, great for Trey.
There were 319 home runs Monday at Coors Field.
Almost seemed like a 1995 Rockies-Dodgers game in the first season of the highest & mightiest park in the game.
Nowhere in the universe have more than 300 yard-busters been produced before.
And 500-foot homers were raining in LoDo.
Not one ball left The Keg, but several found their way to the second deck in right and the concourse in left and the trees and the pond in center.
Here are some of the reasons: The ballpark has a purple row of seats in the upper deck that is exactly 5,280 feet above the level of the sea. So balls do travel as much as 7-10 percent farther in Denver, and beyond even more particularly on a day with temperatures that reach 90.
Then, there is this: The baseballs used for the Home Run Derby were not placed in the famous humidor at Coors Field. And they were special baseballs wound especially tight.
The atmosphere was perfect for identified flying objects (IFO’s).
In the first round of the Home Run Derby, the eight players involved launched 208 baseballs into the extremes of the stadium.
I’m not making up that number. The Elite Eight averaged 26 homers in this first merry go-round.
Alonso had a Derby record of 35.
Ohtani would have won the Doubles Derby in the last duel of the opening set. He has 33 already this season, but had 20 grounders and line drives as the gathering tried to urge him on with “Oh-Tani’’ over and over. He did manage to make a homer comeback to tie Soto, and they were still level after an overtime, but in the swing-off Soto had three home runs and Ohtani misclubbed his first attempt.
But Sho(Mile)Hei Ohtani will be back for the All-Star Game Tuesday night and hit and pitch, a first of all time.
When Story defeated Joey Gallo in a four-minute duel, the dominant Colorado loyalists – who had booed mascots from the other teams during the Derby introductions – there was an eruption at 20th and Blake.
Almost as boisterous as the response when Peyton Manning was shown on the big screen shagging batting practice flies in center field. Peyton, who shows up for the opening of an envelope, wore the jersey of Larry Walker, who couldn’t attend the festivities this week because he has contracted Covid-19.
Those beyond walls anticipated and prepared -- especially those of us in the right-field media section when the left-handed Derby Dawgs came up to bat.
A rocket flew directly at three Gazette sportswriters, but before we were damaged, it caromed off the façade beneath the third deck. Thank you.
Another ball landed in a dish of dippin’ dots ice cream after bouncing off the sidewalk in left. Story had a 518-footer to left, and Soto beat him by two feet later. Before he departed prematurely, Ohtani went yard for 513 feet.
But nobody in the ballpark enjoyed the Derby quite like Trey Mancini.
He is the brightest star for and of all.