Morneau's four Derby homers fall short
Twins first baseman can't beat Pujols for final spot in semifinals
SAN FRANCISCO -- Justin Morneau has a lot of pride in his Canadian roots, so even though he wasn't directly representing his country in this year's State Farm Home Run Derby, he felt the pressure to do well.Another reason why Morneau might have felt a burden is that the last Canadian to take part in the event, Jason Bay, didn't record a single homer in the 2005 Home Run Derby. Morneau joked earlier in the day on Monday that at least he couldn't do worse than Bay, but it was clear he didn't want to finish the day with a zero on the board. In the end, Morneau didn't have to worry about putting up that goose egg, as he belted five homers in Monday night's Derby in San Francisco "I didn't hit zero," Morneau said with a smile. "So I guess it was a success." No Canadian has ever won the event, and that didn't change on Monday night as Morneau was eliminated after the first round. Monreau drew the unenviable task of having to go first in the event, so his was the number to beat. With his manager Ron Gardenhire throwing to him, Morneau hit his first home run -- a towering shot -- over the center-field wall at AT&T Park. His second one came on a long ball over the right-field wall, but he had to use nearly all of his outs to deposit the two homers. And while Gardenhire had lamented all week about his pitches having "movement," Morneau didn't blame his skipper for his inability to hit more dingers. "Every pitch I took were the ones that were down the middle," Morneau said. "So I was trying to take some pitches and take my time. But I just didn't really get into a groove." Morneau took advantage of his final out in the first round, hitting two homers with the designated gold baseballs to bring his total to four. Every gold-ball home run contributed $17,000 to the Boys and Girls Club. Morneau hit two of the gold baseballs over the fence to provide $34,000 to the charity. Still, the four homers weren't enough to carry the Twins first baseman to the second round. He tied with Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols for fourth in the event, forcing them into a five-swing playoff.
Each contestant got five swings to hit the most homers to earn a spot in the semifinals. Morneau hit one homer in his final swing, while Pujols hit back-to-back homers in his first two attempts.For Morneau, he said that the lack of success during the Swingoff was in large part due to his thinking that four homers would not get him to the second round. "I did not think I was going to hit again, so I sat there until I got up to go hit in the Swingoff," Morneau said. "It's probably my own fault. I didn't think four home runs was going to make it to the tiebreaker, so I just sat there and had to try to get loose quickly. Once I got loose, my round was over. But it was a good experience." In addition to Morneau, the Brewers' Prince Fielder (three homers), the Tigers' Magglio Ordonez (two) and the Phillies' Ryan Howard (two), the defending Home Run Derby champ, were all eliminated in the first round. The wind is always a big factor at AT&T Park, and earlier in the day, Morneau and the other hitters said it likely would determine whether lefties would have an advantage hitting in this park. And with McCovey Cove sitting just over the left-field wall, many had wondered just how many balls would be hit to the numerous rafts and kayaks waiting out there. But only one homer made it into McCovey Cove on Monday -- a Fielder drive that barely cleared the Portwalk that separates the outside wall of the ballpark and the Cove. But in the end, it was the right-handers that had the advantage on the day. All four finalists were right-handers, and there were plenty of homers hit deep into the left-field stands. Despite the pressure of the hyped-up event, Morneau said that he didn't let that get to him. Instead, he took the whole experience for what it was -- fun. And now he's turning his focus to trying to help the American League squad pull out yet another victory in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night. "This was fun," Morneau said of the Derby. "I got up there and wasn't nervous. I was just enjoying it. It's a little different when you are up there in a game situation. With the Derby it's nice to win it, but the game is what you are here for -- to compete and win it."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.