A Home Run Derby field that was light on star wattage wound up producing a tremendous contest, with a climactic finish featuring exactly the outcome Major League Baseball would’ve scripted if they’d had the chance: Bryce Harper surging dramatically in the final round to win it with a majestic dinger in front of a euphoric home crowd.
Rhys Hoskins got the show off to a rip-roaring start with an intimidating 17 dingers as the very first batter, and looked very much like the man to beat:
The tournament format—single elimination, with each batter getting four minutes to smash as many taters as possible, and a 30-second bonus earned for hitting at least two 440-foot dingers—meant whoever hit second in a given pair was robbed of the opportunity to rack up truly insane dinger totals, since they could advance by just hitting one more than their opponent. For Harper that meant advancing out of the first round by hitting a measly 13 dingers, although he hit several of the strongest dingers of the round:
Harper advanced past Freddie Freeman with 26 seconds left on the clock, and advanced past Max Muncy in the second round with a full minute left, but the real show of the second round was the battle between Hoskins and Kyle Schwarber, with Schwarber needing to top Hoskins’s whopping 20 dongs in order to advance:
Harper’s chances against Schwarber in the Final didn’t look real great. Schwarber clubbed 37 dingers in the first two rounds, to Harper’s 26, and Schwarber crushed another 18 in the final round, like a true dong lord. And Bryce got off to a slow, unimpressive start in a final round that featured his dad losing the strike zone for an alarming series of pitches while the whole thing hung in the balance. MLB is being squirrelly about the full video of Harper’s final round, but it featured this mammoth 478-foot shot:
And it climaxed with Harper surging back from the dead in the final minute, and cranking dinger number 18 in the final seconds of the allotted four minutes:
With 30 extra seconds coming after easily collecting the necessary two 440-foot dingers, the result was a foregone conclusion, but that didn’t make the moment itself any less awesome:
Here’s a cool alternate angle of the final shot of the night:
And what would a Home Run Derby be without a mesmerizing spray chart:
It probably wasn’t the field MLB would’ve chosen—Max Muncy and Alex Bregman are exactly no one’s idea of marquee sluggers—but the derby produced an epic, climactic finish and a victory for the biggest star on the stage. Even without Ichiro and Shohei Ohtani, it was a hell of a show.