The Oakland A's outfielder Yoenis Cespedes won the Home Run Derby at Target Field last night, thrilling the sellout crowd of more than 40,000 fans by hitting dozens of baseballs far over the fences. And some of the biggest cheers of the night were reserved for current and former members of the hometown Minnesota Twins.
The event, a warm-up for tonight's All-Star Game, started nearly an hour late due to rain, and faithful fans just bundled up and waited for the chance to see some of the most powerful hitters in baseball take turns bombarding the stands.
Though the rules changed this year to showcase more players and speed up at-bats, the point of the derby remained the same: To win, a player had to hit the most home runs.
The fans stood on their feet and gave warm ovations to the Twins' Brian Dozier and former Twin Justin Morneau, who was traded last summer.
Dozier, who has hit more home runs than any of his Twins teammates so far this year, only managed to hit two balls over the fence. So he didn't advance to the next round of the competition.
Morneau also didn't make it out of the first round. The Colorado Rockies first baseman got cheers of encouragement from fans -- especially those camped out on the plaza in right field.
It took several swings from Morneau's bat before a ball came flying into the crowd where a scrum ensued as fans fought for position to catch the ball. In the end, Jeff Lehtinn, of St. Paul, managed to pull the ball out of the air and out of the grasp of dozens of other souvenir hunters.
"I had to fight through the crowd. But I stuck my arm up -- it was like sandlot -- came right in my glove."
Afterward, Morneau said that home run ball was one of the best he's hit at Target Field.
"That felt really good. It was unfortunate. I would have like to have moved on, and kept it going, but those guys were putting on a show. To be able to come back in this great city -- it's a real honor."
Morneau says the loud cheers he got from the fans at Target Field almost brought tears to his eyes. Dozier said he was really nervous, but the crowd made him feel at home.
"It was cool. The crowd was electric. And they started chanting 'Dozier' and that's probably one of the most highlighted moments of my career - or life to be honest with you. Chills came over my body. It was pretty cool."
Home Run Derby winner Yoenis Cespedes became the first player to win two consecutive home run contests, since Ken Griffey Jr. did it in 1998 and 1999.