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July 9, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
GARY THORNE: Great to have you with us. Obviously these are the guys who are going to participate in the Home Run Derby, Major League Baseball and State Farm recently announced a multi-year sponsorship agreement which has named State Farm as the official insurance company of Major League Baseball and it will be broadcast tonight on ESPN, ESPN Desportes, ESPN Radio and it will also be provided on XM to provide satellite coverage of the State Farm Home Run Derby.
I want to introduce first of all the people involved, your participants. From Anaheim, Vlad Guerrero; from Minnesota, Justin Morneau; from the Tigers, Magglio Ordonez, from the Blue Jays Alex Rios.
The National League will be represented by the Brewers, Prince Fielder, Colorado's Matt Holliday, the Cardinals Albert Pujols and the Phillies Ryan Howard. This is made possible by the outstanding help from State Farm and I would like to introduce the national sponsorship marketing manager for State Farm, Bobby Wilkinson.
BOBBY WILKINSON: Thank you, Gary and thank you to Major League Baseball. This is a very special day for State Farm. There is no better combination that goes with our 17,000 agents and all of our employees in the country than Major League Baseball and a big thanks to John Brody and his team and all of the folks at Major League Baseball. It's going to be a fantastic day, a fantastic evening. We're in store for some great baseball, some home runs tonight, so thank you very much.
GARY THORNE: We will remind you some of the things that will go on tonight in the Home Run Derby. It has become obviously -- and we were kidding about this a moment ago with a couple of writers -- it is the highest rated sporting event of the summer that's broadcast on ESPN. There will be the Gold Ball platform; the Gold Ball introduced years ago; State Farm, in the Home Run Derby competition, for every home run hit by the participants in the competition after the ninth out, MLB and State Farm will combine 17,000 to charity per Gold Ball home run. 17,000 represents the 17,000 State Farm agents and neighborhoods across the U.S. and Canada. Proceeds from the Gold Ball platform benefit the official charity of Major League Baseball, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America and that has been a very big fund-raiser as part of the Home Run Derby over the last couple of years.
Without further ado, we'll open it up to questions.
Q. This is for any of the players. I wonder if you feel that the Home Run Derby is diminished or are you disappointed personally that Barry Bonds will not be part?
GARY THORNE: They all jumped at once.
ALEX RIOS: I think it's more of a personal thing if you want to participate, if he doesn't want to do it, if he wants to take some time off with his family, I don't think there's anything wrong with it.
Q. Specifically to Justin, do you weigh the pros and cons of the Home Run Derby? There's been talk some guys in the second half have struggled since participating. Do you consider certain factors when you decide to participate in this event and how it might affect your swing in the second half?
JUSTIN MORNEAU: I've been in the Home Run Derby in the Minor Leagues. I know it's not the same kind of thing but you try not to get into too many bad habits. I think when you're in the Home Run Derby you can try to pull everything and that can kind of affect your swing. But I try not to change my swing too much. And every day in batting practice, try to hit home runs and that kind of stuff and that's what we do every day.
You can get into that habit and your swing can get kind of long, but it's not that many swings. Hopefully you're out there for a few rounds. It could just be ten swings and you're out of there.
So it's one of those things where you just try not to change too much and you just try to look for a good pitch to hit and take the same kind of approach you would in a game if you were in a 2-0 count, you're just looking for that one pitch to try and hit hard or hit it out of the park.
Q. Bobby, State Farm, the new sponsor and there's a pretty rich tradition with the Home Run Derby. Outside of you being the new sponsor, is there any appreciable difference in how the Derby is going to go?
BOBBY WILKINSON: No, I don't think there's going to be any difference. I think the big difference is that we're going to be on site and we hope our brand is out there better than any other brand.
You know, I can't emphasize enough how important this is to State Farm. Baseball is a community event, when you think of how many little kids are playing baseball and parents are taking them to games. So many of our agents, employees, volunteers who are baseball coaches. It's a great marriage indicated by the fact that it didn't take us very long to get this deal done, even though at times it felt like it did. So I don't think there's going to be a lot of difference. Only that if you look at the athletes around me at this table; it's probably going to be one of the better Home Run Derby's we've ever had, and I think we are just very proud to be part of it.
Q. For Prince, Ryan and Justin, what is the appeal of McCovey Cove to a left-handed hitter, especially an opportunity like this?
JUSTIN MORNEAU: I don't know, I've never played in it. Hopefully it will be fun. The wind, we were talking about before, sometimes the wind can come in off the water and you can get a little breeze blowing in but hopefully it's pretty calm tonight and go out and see if we can hit something in there. I've seen Barry do it a few times, not too many guys can hit it out there. It's fun when you have a target on the other side of the fence to try to hit it to.
RYAN HOWARD: No, I mean, like Justin said, you see Barry hit a lot and it's actually a lot harder to do than a lot of people think.
For us being lefties, like you said, hopefully that wind is not blowing in and hopefully we'll be able to put some out there.
Q. This question is for Ryan. Ryan, last year you were the winner; do you feel you have an advantage going into tonight's event?
RYAN HOWARD: Do I feel I have an advantage? No, not really. You know, this event is just to go out and have fun. I think everybody up here that's going to be out there is out there for the purpose of having fun.
As far as the advantage, I don't know what the weather is going to be like. It's a little bit colder up here. The wind might be blowing in. It might be a good night to be righty. I was telling Justin, we might have to work on that elbow swing tonight.
Q. Vlad, can you talk about the importance of so many Latin faces in this tournament, in this Derby; what does it mean to Major League Baseball to have all of these faces?
VLADIMIR GUERRERO: More than anything, just to continue to do a good job and stay healthy, and we ask God to help us carry that flag from each of us in our countries to continue to do well representing our countries and all of Latin America.
Q. Albert, same question to you.
ALBERT PUJOLS: Like Vlad said, it's pretty much representing your country, you just need to thank those guys that played in the past that opened the door for so many Latin players right now, a lot of young players that are coming up to the big leagues.
The last couple of years, not just sitting here, me and Vlady and Rios, in the All-Star Game you see so many Latin players and that will show you how hard those players have to work their way up to get to the big leagues. So it's an honor and I'm proud to represent the fans back in the Dominican Republic who support us?
Q. You have a reputation for not being a picky hitter in terms of the pitches you swing at; curious if your approach changes during this competition. You've taken some time off and now you're back in the Home Run Derby. Wondering what brought you back.
VLADIMIR GUERRERO: I have a familiar arm throwing to me, Dino Ebel, my third base coach and I can pretty much in spring training tell him where to put the ball where I can hit it out of the ballpark.
Yes, I have taken some time off and glad to be back, more than anything because of the fans; I think the fans deserve to see me. With all of my back issues out of the way, I would like to pay back the fans and really bring respect to them by participating again.
Q. Justin, did Walker give you any advice on taking part in the Home Run Derby?
JUSTIN MORNEAU: He just said, hit it over the fence. (Laughter.)
No, I was actually trying to get him to throw but he has some family stuff that he had to deal with. It would have been kind of cool to have him throwing to me in the Derby. Pointed out at the end of the year, he said he would be happy to do it. He said he couldn't do it this year, but he said to have fun and make sure I stay loose and just enjoy the whole thing.
Q. I just wanted to know, who do you think is the favorite to win the Home Run Derby, and why; and if it's yourself, you can say yourself. (Laughter.)
ALBERT PUJOLS: I think Ryan Howard and Matt Holliday, they put in that tarp yesterday, they need to lift some weights.
Q. Being from Venezuela, Magglio Ordonez understands the impact of Bobby Abreu a couple of years ago and what he did in the Home Run Derby; does anything come to mind for you to participate and take over this year?
MAGGLIO ORDONEZ: Regarding Bobby Abreu, I'm not going to shoot for that record or even break that record. It's 40-plus home runs, and I consider myself more of a line drive hitter and power occasionally. I'm not shooting for that record and I don't see that record being broken.
Q. Ryan, I think we can probably assume that everybody sitting here is never going to participate in a Home Run Derby. What does it feel like; is it fun, or is it tiring?
RYAN HOWARD: It's a little bit of all of the above. Just the experience of being out there -- first, it's different, because no cage and for the guys who have not really been in one like this before, you just kind of feel naked. There's no cage and everybody's watching you and the first thing that's going through mind is, "All right, don't not hit any home runs, don't come home with a zero, because you'll never hear the end from everybody."
You're laughing and you're joking around but when you get in there into the later rounds and stuff like that, you start getting a little tired. It's a lot more physical than people think.
Q. Matt, in light of the fact you were the last one to enter here, what did you think about when you got asked about this in the context of, what do you worry about this coming into this and coming into it late?
MATT HOLLIDAY: I got asked about it this morning. (Laughter.) I didn't really have time to be nervous. I just hope to hit one. I hope to be comfortable enough to hit a few. I'm excited about it and I don't think many people have seen me do much in Colorado, but hopefully I can put on a little bit of a show.
Q. Albert, you've hit numerous home runs and pretty good shots in this ballpark. Do you think as a right-handed hitter, you have an advantage in this ballpark over a left-handed hitter?
ALBERT PUJOLS: I was just sitting here telling Matt, it's pretty tough because you don't know, when you get there today with the conditions and the weather, and the wind just blows; the wind could go blowing out to left field or it could be blowing in. It's a tough park to hit in.
I think to me, it's probably the toughest park in the National League for a right-handed hitter, because, you know, I'm a guy that I like to stay inside the ball. I don't like to pull the ball too much, and same thing with Matt. If you see that 411 in that gap, it's just a long way. So I don't think we're going to shoot for that.
So we're just going to try to relax and have fun and hopefully, just like in practice, like Rios said before, when you hit in batting practice, you take your swing and your last couple of rounds you try to pull a couple of balls. But you can take your time, you can take a couple of pitches if you want, it's not like you have to rush; you need to take your time. I don't think there is any advantage for the righties or lefties. It's a tough park to hit for both. We're going to see and whoever hits the most home runs is going to win today.
Q. Having won last year, are you going in with the mindset that anything less is not acceptable or you'll just have a good time with it?
RYAN HOWARD: That's the people of Philadelphia right there.
I'll have the same mindset as last year, just come in and have fun and enjoy myself and whatever happens, happens.
Q. For the right-handers. Lefties shoot for the Cove, do you think it's possible to hit the mitt? Andres Galarraga came close one time. I think it's like 500 --
ALBERT PUJOLS: I think maybe when I'm playing catch today in left field, I'm going to throw the ball out there and I'll be able to hit it. (Laughter.)
No, it's a long way. It's a long way. Like I said with the wind, it's even going to be tougher. So I don't think there's any right hander here that we're going to go out there and try hitting that glove. Just hopefully try to hit the ball out of the park, try to hit one at least.
Q. When you're in the Home Run Derby, is there a point when you get caught up in how far you hit it rather than how many you hit? Obviously the crowd reacts. Is it hard to not get caught up in seeing how far you hit the ball rather than how many you hit?
RYAN HOWARD: I think sometimes because while you're standing there watching, you're catching a little breather. I think the fans enjoy that. The further that you can hit it -- obviously the more you hit, the better your chances for winning and the fans enjoy that. I think they enjoy the further that you hit it just to be awestruck to see how far the ball can actually travel.
MATT HOLLIDAY: Same thing. I think it's a lot of fun. I think most of us the last round or two in batting practice try to see how far we can hit them. So I'm sure there's a little bit of both. You want to save some of your energy and not try to kill yourself to see how far you can hit it.
I think the fans will be excited to see how far some of the balls travel tonight.
Q. Prince, do you feel like your team has been overlooked; how does that make you feel the way your team, nobody even talks about it, you lead the National League in home runs and people don't even talk about you?
PRINCE FIELDER: That's fine, just hope to keep staying under the radar and hitting more.
Q. Ryan, do you think if Barry Bonds was in this competition you would consider him to be the favorite?
RYAN HOWARD: You'd probably have to. I mean, this is his park. You know, all of the balls in McCovey Cove, he has more balls in McCovey Cove than anybody up here, all of us up here combined. You definitely have to give him the advantage.
Plus, he's got his hometown crowd here, so he would have to be.
Q. And Prince, no one wants to get shut out but you watched your dad get shut out the first time he did this and then he did a little better. Do you think watching your dad do it three times might help you?
PRINCE FIELDER: No. I'm just going to go out there and try to have fun and hopefully I can hit one.
GARY THORNE: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. To the guys that are going to be in this, we wish you all the best of luck. Thank you.
End of FastScripts