And that’s exactly what happened, as Cano nipped Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in the end Nike Free Run by hitting a finals record 12 home runs in front of a boisterous crowd of 44,820.
“Everybody told me I was going to win it,” Cano said, “and I was like, ‘Wow, we got a lot of guys in this. We’ve got (David) Ortiz and (Prince) Fielder. We’ve got Gonzalez, and we got (Jose) Bautista.’ That’s a lot of power.
Cano flew in his father Jose from the Dominican Republic to pitch to him in the Home Run Derby. The father pitches to his son during the off season, and the chemistry worked to perfection.
“It worked today,” Jose Cano said. “Thank God, it worked.”
Cano and Gonzalez each hit 20 homers to advance to the finals. Gonzalez then went first and hit 11 home runs, setting the stage for Cano’s dramatic victory. His 12 homers surpassed the finals record set by Bobby Abreu in 2005 and equaled last season and this season by Ortiz and Gonzalez, respectively.
“They put on a show, man,” said National League derby contestant Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, whose two homers were the fewest of anyone in the competition.
Toronto’s Bautista, considered the derby favorite in part because he led the majors in home runs last season (54) and is leading again this year (31) at the break, failed to get out of the first round. He finished with just four home runs.
Fielder, the NL’s captain, hit the longest home run of Nike Free Run the competition a 474 foot shot to right field. But during most of his swings he was booed loudly, presumably because he left Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton off his derby squad of sluggers.
“It’s one of their players. You expect that,” Fielder said. “That means it means a lot to them.”
The boos didn’t bother Fielder but they bothered his two young sons, who were on the field during the derby.
“They were mad. They wanted to fight,” Fielder said. “I had to tell them to calm down. It wasn’t personal.”
NeitherNor was the Yankees Red Sox rivalry that occurred in the finals between Cano and Gonzalez personal. Not according to Cano, who said: “I never thought it was Red Sox and Yankees. I know I was facing Gonzalez, but I didn’t have that in my mind.”
Competing in the derby is something Cano, who is tied for 28th in the majors with 15 home runs, has always wanted to do.
“As a kid, being up here and thinking about a bunch of guys you watched back in the day like (Sammy) Sosa, (Ken) Griffey (Jr.), (Mark) McGwire and (Jason) Giambi and how much fun they had, Nike Free Run you want to be there one day and see how it feels,” Cano said. “Today I’m here and it’s a great feeling.”
The AL derby squad, captained by Ortiz, out homered the NL by a significant 76 19margin.
State Farm and MLB will donate $150,000 to Ortiz’s charitable foundation, $100,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and $25,000 to Fielder’s charitable choice, the Ronald McDonald House.