The biggest story in LA outside of Steve Nash concerned a meaningless exhibition.
All the baseball talk was centered on Matt Kemp participating in this year’s Home Run Derby, despite having not played in Major League Baseball since May 30. Kemp, who had undergone a lengthy rehab stint with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga to recuperate from a strained hamstring, was chosen as the National League’s captain, and though he would not return to the Dodgers until after the All Star break, he pledged to travel to Kansas City and participate in the derby. He caught flack for competing though, as many people, including Bill Plaschke of the LA Times and Arash Markazi of ESPN, said the risk or aggravating an injury was too great.
The criticism ultimately went for naught, however, as Kemp finished the first round with one measly home run. To his credit, the lone dinger came on a gold ball that traveled 420 feet and contributed $18,000 to charity. Kemp took a grand total of 11 hacks and was able to walk away without a recurrence.
It was Kemp’s second straight year as a participant in the derby, and the second straight year that he was unable to hit a home run on his first nine attempts. Last year he hit two gold balls into the Chase Field stands before making his tenth out.
Detroit’s Prince Fielder earned this year’s victory, hitting 16 homers in the first two rounds and 12 in the final to defeat Toronto’s Jose Bautista. Fielder’s win is his second, having previously captured the 2009 contest in St. Louis.
Another local player competed in the Home Run Derby: Mark Trumbo. The Angels’ young slugger tied Bautista at 13 dingers after two rounds for second place, but the Blue Jay defeated Trumbo 2-1 in a swing-off to advance to the final. Trumbo’s longest bomb went 457 feet.