On Monday night, the Home Run Derby came back to life with a new, timed format that added more drama to the long ball competition. Los Angeles Dodgers rookie center fielder Joc Pederson came in second, losing in the final round to hometown hero Todd Frazier. But the rookie did not disappoint, hitting long ball after long ball, one that even traveled 487 feet, the longest homer of the competition.
According to ESPN.com, even though Pederson didn’t win, he was :
It was a great environment,” Pederson said. “It was extremely humbling being out there with Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Josh Donaldson.”
Pederson’s relationship with Albert Pujols in particular was highlighted throughout the night, as Pederson eliminated the veteran in the semifinals of the derby. After Pujols was eliminated he shared a special hug with Pederson’s older brother Champ, who has Down Syndrome. Champ shared earlier in the derby that his favorite player is Pujols, but he was of course rooting for his brother to win the derby.
According to Bill Shaikin of the LA Times, Pederson and Pujols grew even more fond of each other after Monday night:
The city of L.A. should be proud of him,” Pujols said of Pederson. “I’m so proud of him. I just became more of a fan of him.”
Pujols does a lot of charity work with organizations that deal with Down Syndrome, as his daughter also has the disorder. Pederson said that’s what sets him apart from other superstars:
That just shows what type of man he is,” Joc Pederson said. “He’s an unbelievable human.
“It’s not necessarily about winning. He’s got a warm heart. I tip my cap to him.”
Both Pederson and Pujols will be back on the field in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, as both were selected as injury replacements to start for their respective leagues.