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July 8, 2019

Matt Chapman

Vladimir Guerrero Jr

Alex Bregman

Joc Pederson

Josh Bell

Ronald Acuna Jr.

Pete Alonso

Carlos Santana

Cleveland, Ohio

JON SCIAMBI: I'm Jon Sciambi from ESPN. Welcome to the T-Mobile Home Run Derby press conference. Again, the 2019 Home Run Derby is going to take place this evening, 8:00 Eastern and will be broadcast live on ESPN. The same as last year, it will be single-elimination bracketed play. Each of these guys will get four minutes per round to hit as many homers, 30 seconds of bonus time will be earned by hitting two home runs that travel at least 440 feet. For the fourth consecutive year the T-Mobile Home Run Derby Bracket Challenge gives fans a chance to predict the results of the Derby here at Progressive Field tonight. So you can enter up until 7:59 Eastern at MLB.com/bracketchallenge for a chance to win $250,000.

So we get ready for the Home Run Derby here tonight and at this time I would like to invite T-Mobile's executive vice-president, Mike Katz to say a few words. Mike?

MIKE KATZ: Thank, you, Jon. I know I can't wait to see how my bracket does tonight.

I'm thrilled to be here at T-Mobile for the fourth T-Mobile Home Run Derby. We're all excited I know to hear from these guys, I'll make my comments quick.

As the Un-carrier, we're all about connecting fans of all ages to this sport that they love, and because of that earlier this year we kicked off a big new partnership with Little League Baseball and Softball. And we started our partnership with $100,000 donation to Little League of Puerto Rico as they go through their recovery. But tonight we're going even bigger to little leaguers: We're announcing today that we are doing a $250,000 donation to Little League. And during tonight's Home Run Derby for every home run hit we're going to donate an additional $1,000, and $5,000 for every magenta ball that's hit during bonus time.

The funds that we're raising for Little League are going to go directly to making Little League more accessible to families and kids, by providing grants for equipment and financial assistance. We also brought some little leaguers here tonight that you'll get a chance to meet here in just a second.

So with that said, I'll wrap this up. Thanks for your time and good luck tonight gentlemen.

JON SCIAMBI: Mike, thanks so much, and time now to meet tonight's participants. We're going to start to my right, and the top seed is Matt Chapman of the Oakland Athletics. He'll be competing in his first career Home Run Derby. His opponent in the first round will be the 8th seed Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays, also in his first Home Run Derby. Congratulations to you guys. Great to have you here.

As far as our next grouping, the Astros third baseman Alex Bregman was in this competition last year and is in again this year. He is the 4 seed. 23 homers for Alex so far this year. Second straight derby as his an opponent in the opening round will be Joc Pederson, who almost won this thing in 2015.

Next we have the three seed, Josh Bell, who is having a tremendous year for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He's appearing in the event for his first time and he will face off against Ronald Acuña Jr., the seventh seed, taking part in his first career Home Run Derby.

And finally the Mets rookie, Pete Alonso, the two seed, will square off against Carlos Santana, competing for the first time. And we're going to open it up for questions in just a moment.

But I guess a couple of things just that I want to get to with each of you guys. Matt, you're getting a chance to do this. I read somewhere you were at the Home Run Derby in Anaheim. Is that right? You had a chance to see it and it was a cool experience for you.

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, I went to that when I was younger. This is a little different now. But hopefully I can just fill Christian Yelich's shoes.

JON SCIAMBI: Christian Yelich, who is having a tremendous year, last year's MVP, not participating. By the way, you're matched up against the youngest competitor in the history of this field in Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and we have the youngest field ever. The Home Run Derby has never been younger than the 2019 T-Mobile Home Run Derby. The average age is slightly above 25 years old. We have a 20-year-old and a 21-year-old participating, which is absolutely incredible.

Alex Bregman last year, you got a chance to do this, what did you learn from it? Give me something you took from it that you said, I'll do this a little different?

ALEX BREGMAN: I think a lot more swings than I expected. You have to pace yourself and I'm looking forward to it. These guys hit the ball a lot further than I do. I'm happy to be up here.

JON SCIAMBI: If it goes over it counts.

ALEX BREGMAN: I guess, yeah.

JON SCIAMBI: Pete Alonso, your cousin is going to be throwing to you. And this is something that I think as your season developed, it sounds like you had your eye on a little bit and you're excited?

PETE ALONSO: Yeah, I'm stoked. My parents are hometown sweethearts from Ohio, and my entire mom's side is from here, and from here in the greatest state ever, and I'm excited (laughter). I'm excited. It's going to be a family affair. I have a bunch of people in town. It's going to be a blast. I'm really excited.

JON SCIAMBI: Carlos Santana, you're getting a chance to compete in front of the hometown fans. You're hitting left-handed. Are you excited?

CARLOS SANTANA: : Yeah, I'm excited. A little bit nervous, especially in front of my hometown. We'll see what happens tonight.

JON SCIAMBI: Are you going to wear the necklace? Because the necklace is awesome.

CARLOS SANTANA: It's a little bit heavy but yeah.

JON SCIAMBI: It will not restrict the swing in any way?


Q. For Josh and Matt, anyone, really, who has thoughts on it, have you noticed with all the home runs and the distances of balls this year, balls behaving differently, traveling farther than when you first came up?
JOSH BELL: I feel like last year I'm not getting balls in the air at the same rate. I can't really compare to what I did in the past. But I feel like for the most part velocities are up. Guys are working year in and year out on their swings. We're just focused on trying to put a show on for you guys. And I guess it's just part of it.

Q. (Question in Spanish).
VLADIMIR GUERRERO JR.: I'm excited to be here, but to be honest, we're grown-up men competing. So some are younger than others, but we're ready to compete.

Q. My question is for the left-handed hitters, in the history of this ballpark, no ball has ever gone into the third deck in right field. Is that something that you guys are going to be shooting for tonight?
JOC PEDERSON: Bregman is getting in my head. He told me the wind is blowing in (laughter).

No, I think Josh Bell is going to take care of that for us, or Carlos Santana, the hometown hero. I don't know. I've been here once, like two years ago, I don't know what it feels like. I'm excited to get out there.

Q. Pete, I didn't realize we were in the greatest state ever. The town in high school where your parents grew up?
PETE ALONSO: Lancaster, Ohio.

JON SCIAMBI: I want to tell everybody you went to Michigan, Ken, but I guess I just did.

Anybody else?

Q. Matt, I believe you're the only one that has your dad throwing to you this year, how special ask that for you?
MATT CHAPMAN: It's pretty special, right, dad? We're stoked. It's kind of been like -- I never thought I'd be here in a million years. But we always joked if I were here, he'd throw to me. I asked him and he said he's ready to go. He said he's going to throw cookies.

Q. Vlad, we enjoyed you in Manchester. Home runs are in your DNA, has your dad given you any advice on the event tonight and how to approach it?
VLADIMIR GUERRERO JR.: It's not the same like ten years ago. Before it was ten outs and now it's four minutes. And for this there's no advice. Just hit the balls out (laughter).

JON SCIAMBI: Dad won in 2007. Yeah, so father is a former Home Run Derby champ.

Q. Ronald, what has Tomas Perez meant to you, throwing to you as well as just your career?
RONALD ACUĂ‘A JR.: Our relationship goes long back, way back since 2015, since I got to the team. He was a teammate of my dad in Venezuela. So it means a lot to have him on the team and have him here.

Q. (Question in Spanish.)
VLADIMIR GUERRERO JR.: They gave the invitation and I said yes. Hey, we're here right now and I'm going to do the best I can.

Q. Alex, what do you like about Joc or what makes Joc dangerous in this? And Joc, what makes him Alex dangerous?
ALEX BREGMAN: He's got great incredible power. He did it against us in the World Series. So I know what it looks like, and it's not fun when you're on that side of it.

JOC PEDERSON: Obviously Alex, he's done it before. He says he doesn't have pop, but somehow hits a lot of homers during the long season, so he's doing it all right. He's a consistent hitter, and like he said, we've had some good battles against each other in the World Series, and they got the best of us and he was leading the charge. So it's employing to be fun to compete against him and everyone else here.

Q. (Question in Spanish.)
VLADIMIR GUERRERO JR.: Just hit the balls out.

JON SCIAMBI: Real quick, before we move this along, Josh, I'm curious, is there anybody here that you're interested to see up close, just watching them hit?

JOSH BELL: I've played against most of these guys, definitely Vladdy, definitely Pete. I've seen them pretty much on SportsCenter every night. So it's nice to see up close and personal what these guys got.

JON SCIAMBI: As a final note, as you heard from T-Mobile, they're donating $250,000 to Little League Baseball and Softball this year, and our eight competitors can drive up that total with every homer they hit. But we're pairing each competitor with a little leaguer this year. So that's one of the parts of this competition that is so great that Little League and T-Mobile and Major League Baseball have combined to do.

So what I'm going to do right now is announce the little leaguers, the eight little leaguers that are paired up with a big leaguer, and I will welcome each of the little leaguers up to the front and so let me introduce them all.

I'm going to begin right here from Ohio: Veronica Richmond. Lady V, would you come up, representing the Great Lakes region. And she is paired with Matt Chapman.

Next is Nolan Beelen representing Canada. And of course paired with Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Daniel Ruesga of Monterrey, Mexico, paired with Alex Bregman, who played in Monterrey earlier this season.

Next, representing the West region paired with Joc Pederson is Brody Sappington of California.

From Louisiana representing the Southwest region paired with Josh Bell is Rylee Green.

Kylon Hines of Memphis representing the Southeast region is paired with Ronald Acuña Jr.

Next it is Daniel Hilfiker of New York representing the Mid-Atlantic region paired, of course, with Pete Alonso.

And finally, Mileyshka Soto-Trujillo of Puerto Rico, representing the Caribbean region, paired with Carlos Santana. So once again, the 2019 T-Mobile Home Run Derby will air live tonight at 8 Eastern on ESPN. Best of luck to our eight competitors and to our little leaguers. Before we conclude I'll invite the photographers to come up for photo opportunities, the first with the eight contestants and little leaguers, and second with the eight competitors.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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