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July 13, 2009
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
MIKE GREENBERG: Good afternoon, my name is Mike Greenberg from ESPN, and to all of you who are here and watching live right now on ESPN News, on behalf of Major League Baseball it is my privilege to welcome you all to this press conference supporting what in the minds of many has become the highlight of the All-Star festivities, the State Farm Home Run Derby broadcast live tonight on ESPN TV and radio beginning at 7:00 Central time in St. Louis.
On the podium are the eight players who will participate representing the American League from the Texas Rangers, Nelson Cruz, from the Tigers, Brandon Inge, from the Twins, Joe Mauer, from the Rays, Carlos Pena, from the National League. From the American League from the Philadelphia Phillies, Todd Fischer and from the hometown St. Louis Cardinals, Albert Pujols. Tonight's State Farm Home Run Derby will once again feature the gold ball charitable platform.
For every home run that these guys hit out in the competition after the ninth out, Major League Baseball and State Farm will combine to donate $17,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which is the official charity of Major League Baseball. That $17,000 represents the 17,000 State Farm agents and neighborhoods across the U.S. and Canada and in this year of going beyond, there is more than that, and here to talk about it is Todd Fischer, State Farm's manager of National sponsorship.
TODD FISCHER: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here on behalf of State Farm agents across the country. I would like to take a second to thank Major League Baseball, the City of St. Louis, the St. Louis Cardinals, and most importantly these eight guys that you see in front of you because without them this event is not possible in terms of the amazing success that it will be once again this evening.
We are proud to be back as title sponsor of the State Farm Home Run Derby once again, and as Mike mentioned there's a new component this year in conjunction with Major League Baseball's going beyond platform. Going beyond for State Farm really means being there for the Boys & Girls Club, more than we ever have before. We are excited that this year, State Farm will be donating $5,000 for every non-gold ball hit throughout the State Farm Home Run Derby. When you take that in conjunction with the Gold Ball Program and player match up program that we will talk about a little bit later, you are looking at the possibilities of a donation up to $1 million tonight.
We will leave the power in the hands of these guys here and we'll let the rest be. We are awfully excited to make that kind of impact, not only for the boils and girls club that are here today, but for the lasting impact that it will have on youth programs across the country for years to come.
MIKE GREENBERG: Tonight not only as every ball flies out of the ballpark, not only is it great for the fans watching across the world, but it obviously is making a big difference. And there is more than that, as well. They are also bringing back tonight the call your shot promotion to make the State Farm Home Run Derby even more exciting.
Before we begin the Derby, St. Louis's Albert Pujols will step on to the field with a lucky contestant, Mark Weinberger from Philadelphia, and Mark will point to left filed, right field or centerfield; if you point at right field, you are going to make yourself very unpopular, but it is up to you. (Laughter.)
Wherever you point, Albert will try to hit a home run, and if he succeeds, Mark will win a number of prizes including a 2009 Chevy Tahoe hybrid, a 65-inch AQUOS LCD TV, and much more. My advice is not to point to right field, but that is between and you whoever you consult on this decision. (Laughter.)
Major League Baseball and State Farm are also teaming up to support local St. Louis area Boys and Girls Club of America chapters. We have eight youngsters here from eight different clubs and will pair each of them up with a player in tonight's Derby, and the player who wins the Derby will receive $50,000 towards the center of his or her club compliments of State Farm. While that youngster will be the biggest winner, there will be winners across the board, because each of the other seven Boys & Girls Club representatives will receive a $10,000 donation from State Farm towards a teen center at his or her club.
When I announce your partner, would I like to you greet them and stand behind them so we can take photos with the baseball hero who will be supporting your club.
First, from the St. Charles Boys & Girls Club, Jonah Robinson. Jonah's paired with Nelson Cruz.
Next from the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Clubs is Autumn Davis, paired with Brandon Inge.
Also from the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club is Joshua Jones, paired with Joe Mauer.
From the Scott Air Force Base Boys & Girls Clubs, Amber Baker is paired with Carlos Pena.
From the Bethalto Boys & Girls Club, Kylie Kochel is paired with Prince Fielder.
From the Capital City Boys and Girls Clubs, Dimitri Barnes. Dimitri is paired with Adrian Gonzales.
From Musgrave unit of the Springfield Boys and Girls Clubs, Cordell Clark who is paired with Ryan Howard.
And from St. Charles County Boys and Girls Clubs, Jessica Lampe is paired with Albert Pujols.
Q. You guys take hundreds of cuts every week, and you always hear that the Home Run Derby somehow might screw up a swing, and I'm wondering, how really is that possible, knowing how many swings you guys take all the time?
CARLOS PENA: Well, you know, I've heard the same thing many times. I just don't think that there is nothing to ruin in my swing really. (Laughter.)
So I'm just going to go out there and be myself. I guess I've got enough of a loop that it can't get any worse. I'm just going to stay with it.
And to me, it's just all about the fun, and obviously this is a great cause, so I'm just going to enjoy myself as much as possible.
Q. Could you see it messing up a swing that you guys have worked on for years and years?
CARLOS PENA: You know, perfect swing, yes. Not-so-perfect swings, no. (Laughter.)
I don't give it much thought. I understand the concept of it, but I think all of us here are professionals and we understand that this is something we do for a day and then we get back to our own routines, whatever that may be.
MIKE GREENBERG: Joe Mauer hitting about .380, any concerns?
JOE MAUER: Not really. It's one night, this whole event is for the fans and I'm just real happy to be a part of it.
Q. For Ryan and Albert, because you have some hometown connection, Ryan, what is it like for you to do this in your hometown, but Albert, making you a centerpiece of so many parts of this whole weekend, what has that experience been like for you?
RYAN HOWARD: For me, it's one of the greatest feelings to be able to participate in an All-Star Game here and be up here with these guys and be in the Home Run Derby.
I think it's something you kind of dream about that if you do get to participate in one, an All-Star Game in your hometown, being in a Home Run Derby in your hometown. For me, it's been a lot of fun and that's just the way that I look at it.
ALBERT PUJOLS: It's the same way like Ryan says. It's to enjoy, have fun. Yes, like you say, I've been the centerpiece, but I don't let that get in my head. I'm going to go out there and try to have fun in the Home Run Derby tonight and the game tomorrow, and hopefully we can put on a great show for the fans tonight and the viewers.
Q. The called-shot thing, have you ever done something like this before? Have you ever tried this before? Do you feel any added pressure trying one swing to hit the ball where he is asking you to hit it?
ALBERT PUJOLS: Well, yeah, there is a pressure. There's only one swing that you take. I guess you need to be lucky.
But like I say, before hopefully he don't point to right field (Laughter.)
It's great, I'm glad to be a part of that. It's a great cause and hopefully I can make that happen tonight. It's awesome and I'm looking forward.
Q. Could you talk about being paired up with a guy from your college hometown?
RYAN HOWARD: I thought that was pretty cool when he said Springfield. That's got an even more special meaning; being here in the first place and now being teamed up with somebody who is from the same town that I went to school at. It just makes it that much more special, and like I said before, I'm going to go out here and try to have fun and just enjoy myself.
Q. A few weeks ago, you knocked the eye out of Big Mac with a home run. Did you know while you were on the road trip that the eye was replaced with lights?
ALBERT PUJOLS: I didn't know that until somebody told me in a press conference. Best thing you can do is knock it down again, so hopefully we can do that tonight. (Laughter.)
You know, it's something that is fun when you hit a shot like that. Like I say, as long as it goes over the fence, it counts. It doesn't matter how far you hit it.
Q. A component of this is who throws it to you. Did you all invite somebody to throw for to you night with the Derby?
NELSON CRUZ: I invited a coach from the Dominican Republic. I do it because he does a bunch of things in the Dominican Republic.
BRANDON INGE: I brought our bullpen catcher Scott Pickens. He does a lot of work with our team, and he makes pretty good adjustments. For a guy my size, he better throw right down the middle. (Laughter.)
JOE MAUER: I actually brought my old high school coach from back home, Jim O'Neill. He's a big part in my development as a player, ever since I was probably about six years old. So I thought it would be a neat thing to bring him, and he can still throw the ball over the plate, so that's a good thing.
CARLOS PENA: I brought Scott. He's actually one of our batting practice pitchers, and he's been throwing batting practice with us for the last three years. Actually when I got to Tampa, that was his first year and I thought that would be the most familiar arm that I could bring. He's a great guy, too. So I'm glad to bring him and I'm glad he's here.
PRINCE FIELDER: I brought Sandy. He was my Minor League hitting coach. He kind of helped me with the swing I have now, so I figured, you know -- plus he throws well. So that's always a plus.
ADRIAN GONZALES: I brought Ray Krohn. A batting practice pitcher with us for the Padres. He throws close to five hundred pitches so thought that was a pretty good thing to do.
RYAN HOWARD: I brought my old high school coach, Deron Spink. He's a friend of mine and he's special to me because he helped me kind of get to where I am today as far as my development and just helping me throughout the years, through college and Minor League. I just felt it would be a special moment for us to kind of share because it all started here for me, and he was there from the get-go.
ALBERT PUJOLS: Great. I didn't bring anybody. (Laughter.) My guy decided to take four days off, which I agree, David McKay is my BP guy for since I've been in the big leagues. But I told him that I would love for him to be here tonight. He can't make it. He went to Arizona. So I actually borrowed should be from Pittsburgh, the bullpen coach who is going to throw for me. I'm going to try to get used to him and hopefully he can throw the ball down the middle and I can put good swings on it.
Q. For everybody but Albert, in case any of you wins the Home Run Derby, have you arranged for security to escort you from the stadium (Laughter). In all seriousness, what role do you think it might have, the fact that Albert is so popular, and everyone does want to see him win here in the stadium; will that play any role in how you handle it? Carlos, you're smiling.
RYAN HOWARD: I'll step up to the plate on that one since I'm from here.
Growing up here and being a Cardinals fan, when I was younger, the one thing about the fans here is that they appreciate -- obviously they love their teams first and foremost. They love the Cardinals here. They live and die Cardinals here.
The one thing I can say about the fans here is that they appreciate good players, and you know, if somebody were to knock Albert off tonight, I think that the fans would obviously be -- I think they would be cool with that, because they would appreciate that because they know at what level, the kind of level that Albert is at.
And for somebody to be able to beat him here in St. Louis, obviously the perfect story, I think that they would be very appreciative of that and wouldn't boo or anything like that. Some of the fans here are some of the best fans in all of baseball and they appreciate good play, period.
ALBERT PUJOLS: He says that because he gets a standing ovation every time he hits a home run. (Laughter.) That's the kind of fans we have. It's true; they are the best fans in baseball. As long as you play the game the right way and go about by the right way, they are going to love you, doesn't matter what kind of color of uniform you wear.
ADRIAN GONZALES: I'd like to say, the best thing to do is just go with Albert and you'll be fine. (Laughter.)
Q. Since this is St. Louis and everyone expects Albert to play the majority of the game, do you look at the Home Run Derby as your main opportunity; do you expect to do anything more than pinch-hit in the actual game?
RYAN HOWARD: You know, for me, knowing Charlie, there's a good chance everybody's going to get in this game.
But I'm just here to enjoy myself, and however Charlie feels that he may need to use me, whether it's pinch-hit; if I'm called on to pinch-hit, I'm going to go out there and try to pinch-hit. Like I said, my main goal is try to come out here and enjoy and just try to help out anyway that I can.
PRINCE FIELDER: Same for me as well, like Ryan, I'm just here to have fun. This is Albert's town, so if he needs to play the whole game, I would have no problem with that. (Laughter.)
Q. Just want to get your reaction to what happened last year in this event with Josh Hamilton, do you guys have any thought that we'll see something like that tonight, and just your reaction on watching somebody do something like that that everybody has talked about as being one of the more amazing feats in all of baseball last year, not just the Home Run Derby.
ALBERT PUJOLS: Wow, I don't think, I mean, anybody, I don't want to speak for these guys, but to watch when he did last year in New York on that stage is unbelievable, obviously an amazing way to perform on that stage, it's a great story, what he went through and he just come up and put those big numbers to make an All-Star. And just to be on that stage, it was unbelievable.
Yes, we all dream, hopefully, to put on a show like that, but obviously it's going to be tough to match. We are just going to go out there and have fun and hopefully we can put a good show. Obviously at the end of the night, somebody is going to have to win, but I think everybody here, we all agree that we want to put a show for the fans, for the viewers, and whoever hits the home runs and puts up the show, that's the winner at the end of the night.
I think our focus is going to be to try to enjoy, have fun and make sure that we put a show for the fans in the stadium and the viewers, and I think they can all agree on that. So I can't speak for them, but that's how I think.
MIKE GREENBERG: I would just like to say on behalf of everyone in Major League Baseball and everyone at State Farm, thank you so much for attending and good luck this evening, to all of the participants and their partners.
End of FastScripts