As a teammate of Matt Holliday on the Oakland A's, ESPN baseball analyst Nomar Garciaparra used to marvel at Holliday's mammoth home runs in batting practice.
Garciaparra said Holliday would launch baseballs high up into the football sky boxes in center field at the ballpark in Oakland.
“If they had the window open, somebody would have a souvenir,” Garciaparra said. “It is unbelievable. We would all marvel. Even on our team, there were times in batting practice where guys would stop taking ground balls and just watch to see how far he would hit it.”
Holliday, the St. Louis Cardinals All-Star outfielder from Stillwater, will make his third appearance in the Home Run Derby on Monday night. In 2007, he tied for third place with 13 home runs. Last year, he managed only five home runs in finishing fifth, although his 497-foot homer was the longest of the competition.
Garciaparra expects Holliday's experience will prove beneficial on Monday night in Phoenix.
“Knowing what it's about, I think this time he might fare a lot better,” he said.
However, ESPN analyst John Kruk said Holliday's swing might work against him in the competition.
“I think it could be a detriment to him because he's such a line drive hitter with unbelievable power,” Kruk said. “Can he elevate the ball enough to win this? He can. I don't know if he's able to do it in this format, though. So I think he's at a disadvantage because of the fact that he's such a line drive hitter.”
Holliday, who had 14 home runs entering Saturday's action despite missing 13 games with a left quadriceps injury, is looking forward to another opportunity.
“I like to try to hit the ball far,” he said last week after being picked to compete. “I get extra adrenaline. It's a fun thing that as a kid you always want to do. I always thought if I get the opportunity, I'm going to do it every time.”
Oklahoma also will be represented with Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp, a Midwest City High School graduate, who will be making his first appearance.
“People are going to get to see Matt Kemp for the first time in the big public forum and see how special a player he is,” Kruk said.
Garciaparra said Kemp, who had 22 home runs through Friday's games, will be hindered by his Home Run Derby inexperience.
“The difficult thing is to get away from all the emotion that's surrounding it,” he said. “Get away from the anxiety, because that is all going to be a part of it.
“You realize there are thousands and thousands of people in the stands. All they're doing is focused on you and watching. All eyes are on you in this one swing and every one you do. ... But I think he has the body and strength to do it.”
Kruk said competitors also must learn to pace themselves. He noted Josh Hamilton had a record-setting first round with 28 homers in 2009, but finished second after tiring.
“People remember Josh Hamilton and how many home runs he hit,” he said. “But they forget that the later rounds he didn't do too well because of the fatigue factor.”
MLB Home Run Derby
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Chase Field, Phoenix
TV: ESPN (Cox channels 29, 720)
Announcers: Chris Berman, host; John Kruk and Nomar Garciaparra, analysts; Buster Olney and Pedro Gomez, reporters.
New production enhancements: ESPN will be able to immediately provide distances for the drives and track flights of the drives like they do at golf tournaments.
NL team: captain Prince Fielder, Milwaukee; Matt Holliday, St. Louis; Matt Kemp, L.A. Dodgers; Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee.
AL team: captain David Ortiz, Boston; Jose Bautista, Toronto; Robinson Cano, N.Y. Yankees; Adrian Gonzalez, Boston.