Yes, we Cano: Derby win is a family affair
Yanks slugger sets final-round record with father throwing
PHOENIX -- This time, the State Farm Home Run Derby turned into a father-son bonding experience for the ages.
Robinson Cano, the Yankees' sweet-swinging second baseman, chose his father, Jose Cano -- a former Major League hurler -- to be his pitcher on Monday.
As if they were in the backyard, Jose Cano put them in his son's wheelhouse, and the gifted left-handed swinger delivered, ripping 12 homers in the finals en route to victory at Chase Field.
"I don't want to say that I won the trophy," Robinson Cano said afterward. "I want to say that my dad has won the trophy."
In fitting fashion, the final round became a Red Sox-Yankees showdown, putting Cano against Boston first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
Gonzalez put the pressure on, leading off the last round with 11 homers, which tied a Derby record for the finals.
But Cano had the last at-bat and got hot -- very hot -- hitting his walk-off derby blast with four outs remaining. The competition ended right there, as Cano was mobbed by his American League teammates. Included in Cano's grand finale was a 472-foot rocket that sat in the overhang in right-center.
"Cano did an unbelievable job, he deserved to win ... he hit a lot more further than me," Gonzalez said. "He could have probably hit another 10."
To Cano, there was no mystery where he stood against Gonzalez during that final round. His dad kept the running count.
"We counted every home run he hit today, and when Gonzalez got 11 home runs, I'm [worried], for sure, that we are not going to win," said Jose Cano. "But every time he hit a home run in the last round, I said, 'Ten more, nine more, eight more,' and when he got the last one, I said, 'Just one, just give me the one, that's it.'"
When the younger Cano found out he was going to participate in the Derby, the first person he reached out to was the man who has thrown him more batting practice than anyone else.
"That's what I do all the time at home, just throwing BP [to him]," said Jose Cano. "When he called me at home and told me that he wanted me to come to the United States, because he's going to be in the Home Run Derby, I said, 'I'll be happy to pitch to you, because that's what I do at home.' Whenever he's off from the season, we are working on a lot. So it worked today, because sometimes you work, and you never know what's going to happen, when he's going to need you. It worked. Thank God it worked."
In the first year of a new format, in which the American and National Leagues both had captains -- David Ortiz of the Red Sox and the Brewers' Prince Fielder -- the AL clubbed 76 homers, compared to 19 by the NL.
Because the AL belted more homers, Ortiz's charity of choice, the David Ortiz Children's Fund, will receive a donation of $150,000. State Farm and Major League Baseball will also award a $100,000 donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in Ortiz's name, while Fielder helped earn a $25,000 donation for his charity, the Ronald McDonald House.
There were 95 total homers hit, including 11 Gold Balls, so Major League Baseball and State Farm will donate a total of $603,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs.
"I think it made it more personal for them," said Todd Fischer, manager of national sponsorships for State Farm. "This event has been so unique, because it's always been about giving back to the community. The fans felt that, the kids in the Boys & Girls Clubs -- who were a part of that -- felt it, and I think the players really bought into that this year, because it became that much more personal to them, in a way that they were going to bat for causes that meant the most to them. That was something that was unique to us at State Farm."
Gonzalez, who has been a devastating force in his first season with the Red Sox, carried his hot start into this showcase event.
Ortiz made a last-second lineup change, announcing to the crowd, and to NL captain Fielder, "We're trying to put pressure on you guys."
Ortiz put Gonzalez into the leadoff spot and moved Cano to second. Both players responded to the audible.
Last year, it was Ortiz who won the Derby. This year, as captain, he got to choose the three AL hitters to swing for the fences with him. Some wondered why he didn't choose more of a pure slugger like Josh Hamilton or Miguel Cabrera instead of Cano.
"I made the right choice," said Ortiz. "It was an unbelievable show by Cano and my teammate Gonzo. It was enjoyable. The most important thing was to put on a show for the fans."
And on this occasion, Ortiz didn't really care much about Red Sox-Yankees.
"Robby is like a little brother to me," Ortiz said. "It's good for him, good for the game and his family to watch him."
Gonzalez and Cano both belted an aggregate 20 homers over the first two rounds to force the rivalry matchup in the final.
Cano smoked eight homers in the first round, then a crowd-pleasing 12 in the second.
In the opening round, Cano hit several impressive blasts, including one that smacked off the MLB logo on the façade of the second deck in right. But the one he will never forget is the 472-foot shot he obliterated off of the Miller Lite sign.
"Yeah, that was my favorite one," Cano said. "I'm going to have that in my mind for the next two or three weeks. I wonder how far that would be in New York."
The Yankees' second baseman's 10th homer in round two sailed 450 feet. His final shot of the round roared into the second deck in right.
It took Gonzalez a couple swings to get loose, but once he did, he got in a groove. The lefty ripped nine homers in the first round, including a 415-foot shot that went into the pool in right-center. Gonzalez's longest blast was his towering 445-foot shot to right, his sixth homer of his round. Indians manager Manny Acta threw to Gonzalez.
Gonzalez's true prowess -- and ability to drill the ball to all fields -- came through in the second round, when he unloaded for nine homers.
Though Ortiz had already been eliminated, he took his captain role seriously, toweling off his friend Gonzalez halfway through in the second round and bringing him some water. The hydration seemed to help, as Gonzalez's fifth homer was a 437-foot rope. Then he went to center for a 440-foot laser. Papi again came out for the towel treatment, and Gonzalez continued to hit ropes, smashing seven in a row at one point.
Ortiz, the defending champion, got off to a slow start, making three outs before hitting one out. Then he hit two in a row. Ortiz's third homer, struck with six outs, was a 452-foot moonshot, mauled over the pool and onto a walkway. The slugger finished with five in the round.
So, too, did fellow captain Fielder, forcing a three-way tie for the third and fourth second-round berths.
It came down to a swing-off between Ortiz, Fielder and Matt Holliday, with each slugger getting five swings. Fielder put on an absolute show, hitting home runs on each of his five swings to advance.
"It was as close to 3-2 in the World Series as I've been," said Fielder. "It was cool."
Ortiz snagged the final second-round berth by going deep on four of his five cuts. Holliday was eliminated with two homers, joining the Dodgers' Matt Kemp, the Brewers' Rickie Weeks and the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista in making first-round exits.
The one act that everyone was waiting for coming in didn't quite live up to expectations in this one. Bautista has smashed 85 homers over the last two seasons.
Making his first Derby appearance, Bautista never got into a rhythm, finishing with four in the first round. The modest total was surprising, particularly because he ripped line-drive homers on his first two swings. But he made nine straight outs after that. Down to his last out, Bautista made his round more respectable by smashing back-to-back shots, the second of which curled inside the left-field foul pole and into the second deck.
"It's fun, a lot of fun. I got to enjoy it," Bautista said. "Even though I didn't qualify for the second round, I came pretty close. I think the nerves got to me a little bit, but that sort of thing can happen in this setup like that. I'm not here to make excuses. I just swung at some pitches I couldn't handle. Bottom line is I didn't qualify. But it was fun, a lot of fun, and we got to raise some money for the charities."
And by the end of the night, Cano stared at the trophy, which had two bats crossing over each other.
"So can we split the trophy half in half?" he said.
That likely wasn't going to be possible. But other than that, it was basically a perfect night for the Cano family.