Canada's Justin Morneau wins homer derby
Justin Morneau of New Westminster, B.C., won Monday's Major League Baseball home run derby at storied Yankee Stadium, but Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton stole the show with a record-setting opening round.
Morneau, who plays for the Minnesota Twins, homered eight times in the first round and nine times in the second before outslugging Hamilton 5-3 in the final.
"It is a fun event if you start swinging well, if you get hot," Morneau said. "It is a little tough if you're not swinging that well."
Hamilton finished with 35 homers, the second-highest total in the history of the spectacle, but he hit 28 of them in the first round.
"I was lucky that we got reset after the first two rounds," said Morneau, who totalled 22 homers.
"He deserved to win it. I was lucky he got a little tired."
"You don't realize how tired you are," Hamilton said. "That last round, you're out there swinging, you're tired and you're trying to create the power instead of, like, the first round, just letting it happen nice and easy."
Hamilton, a rookie all-star who leads the major leagues with 95 runs batted in, brought the spillover crowd to its feet with a savage display of raw power in the first round.
Hamilton smashed Bobby Abreu's opening-round record of 24 homers, set in 2005, with 28 homers — 20 more than Morneau and Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros.
"I said after the first round, 'If I don't hit another ball out or if I don't win this, I'm not going to be disappointed,'" Hamilton told reporters.
Three of Hamilton's homers landed more than 500 feet from the plate, with the longest travelling 518 feet.
"I was trying to hit the subway there," Hamilton quipped.
"That was one of the most amazing displays I have ever seen," Morneau said.
Throwing to Hamilton was 71-year-old Claybon Counsil, his former high school coach.
"I said, 'You going to tighten up on me?'" Hamilton recalled. "He said, 'No, but I might have a heart attack.'"
Counsil had visited Yankee Stadium once before — in 1956, the night Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history.
"This was his show," Morneau said of Hamilton, whose promising career was nearly derailed by drug and alcohol addiction.
Hamilton was drafted first overall in 1999, but he spiralled out of baseball before receiving treatment and resurfacing last season with the Cincinnati Reds.
"He is the story of this year," Morneau said. "The year he is having and for him to come in and put on a show like that, it was something impressive.
"We were in awe of what he was doing. At the same time, this is something I have always dreamed of."
With files from the Canadian Press