Kyle Scwharber, who made it to the finals of the 2018 HR Derby in D.C. though he eventually lost to Bryce Harper, said last week, after earning the first All-Star nod of his career, that the experience of participating in the Derby was an unforgettable one, even as a player who did not make the All-Star roster that year.
“I was just kind of that weird guy in the corner just sitting there waiting for the time slot to come up. And then, ‘Get out.’ But, no, I’m kidding,” Schwarber said.
“They treated everyone great, even if you’re participating in the HR Derby and you’re not technically an All-Star, they treated you just like you were an All-Star and you get everything. You were in a BP group, you’re in everything else, until it was game time, and then you’re out.”
Late last month, Schwarber, 28, talked about participating in the HR Derby, and how it was actually an exhausting experience.
“I had a really good experience here in Washington, D.C., obviously with the HR Derby, it was a phenomenal HR Derby with Bryce there in the finals ...
“It was definitely a moment that you’re not going to forget. You kind of check that off your bucket list, and if I was approached, I’d probably not do it, just in terms of — you get a little sore afterwards. And it’s four minutes of just straight hacking as hard as you can. And I think it’s such a great experience, and the people that are going to be in it, and especially in it for the first time, they’re going to love it and it’s going to be something that they’re never going to forget.”
Here is a video of 2021 HR Derby Participant Juan Soto, get this, hitting a HR.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 8, 2021
Please note this is a different HR video than the one we published last night.@JuanSoto25_ // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/I9WdqGaHkZ
Fellow 2021 Nationals’ All-Star Juan Soto announced on Tuesday afternoon that he would be throwing his hat in the Derby ring.
Soto’s manager, Davey Martinez, who cheered Harper on in the 2018 Derby, said that he’s excited to see his current right fielder give it a go for the first time.
“It’s awesome,” Martinez said. “It’s an honor to actually get invited to do that and I wish him all the best. He — it’s a tough task. People don’t realize what those guys go through to hit those home runs like that, and it’s tough. But I wish him well and I’m going to be watching him.”
Schwarber offered some insight into what hitters do go through trying to win it.
“The biggest thing there is you’re going to get sore,” he explained. “You’re going to get sore after the fact. You know what, you just took, how many rounds are there? Three rounds of four minutes, plus another 30 seconds, or a minute, whatever it us. You’re taking almost 13 1⁄2 minutes or something like that, 14-15 minutes, of just full swings if you got the whole time, and you don’t ever do that in a day in your routine in baseball, that’s just torturing yourself. And if you’re going to torture yourself you’d want to do it for the HR Derby, because it’s an experience that you’re never going to forget. I wouldn’t say ‘torture’, but it’s definitely taxing on the body.”
Martinez said he wanted Soto to have fun, but be careful.
“I want him to have fun with it. Like I said, it’s an honor. But I told him, I said, ‘Hey, go out there and have fun and do what you do best.’ You watch him in batting practice, he hits the ball all over the field for homers, so I told him don’t try to change a thing, just you be you.’”
While Nationals Twitter joked some about Soto, who’s hit 10 home runs this season, and has at times struggled to elevate the ball, after a left shoulder issue earlier this season took him out of the lineup, maybe finding his home run swing in the Derby, Martinez said the obvious, batting practice and HR Derby hitting are different from game action.
“I watch him take batting practice every day, and he hits the ball out in batting practice, so you know yesterday you saw him get a ball out over the plate, stay back and get the ball up in the air and hit the ball over the left-center field wall. So, we need to see more of that from Juan, just sitting back, letting the all travel, and using the whole field. I don’t want him to get pull-conscious, that’s the biggest thing and we talked about that with him in this HR Derby, just use the whole field, because he can hit the ball out to left field, center field, right field, so don’t just think about going out there and pulling the ball.
“The biggest thing for me is to come back healthy after this. Like I said, it’s tough, I’ve seen a bunch of these home run derbies, and these guys, the guys that go far, it’s tough on them, so I just want him to come back healthy and just go out there and have fun.”
Soto hit his 11th home run of the season, and second opposite field blast in two games, in the first inning of Wednesday night’s game in Petco Park.
Asked after the game if he was excited about participating in his first HR Derby, Soto said, “Yeah. Hell yeah, it’s going to be a nice experience and I’m going to try to enjoy it as much as I can.”