DETROIT -- Bobby Abreu has always been one of baseball's
most unheralded stars.
The Philadelphia Phillies right fielder won the Home Run Derby
with a record-setting performance Monday night, hitting an
astounding 24 homers in his first turn at bat before outslugging
hometown favorite Ivan Rodriguez in the finals.
"This is something amazing," Abreu said. "I don't know if I
can sleep tonight."
He also smashed the mark for total homers with 41, besting
Miguel Tejada's 2004 total of 27 by the second round. Abreu hit 11
in the finals, another derby record, to Rodriguez's five in an
event that lasted 3 hours, 3 minutes.
"I'm tired," he said. "This is a beautiful night."
Abreu was the first contestant -- he also will hit leadoff for
the National League in the All-Star Game Tuesday night -- and he
gave fans a spectacular show right from the start.
He homered on his first swing and didn't stop until he
obliterated Tejada's previous mark of 15 homers in a round, set
last year in Houston.
"Pretty sick," Boston's Johnny Damon said.
Batting left-handed and teeing off against his personal batting
practice pitcher, Phillies bullpen coach Ramon Henderson, Abreu
topped out with a 517-foot shot onto the porch above the back row
of right-field bleachers, sending the standing-room crowd scurrying
for a souvenir.
It was the third-longest drive in the 20 times the derby has
been held, behind Sammy Sosa's 524-foot homer in 2002 at Miller
Park in Milwaukee and Frank Thomas' 519-footer in 1994 at old Three
Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.
"I was feeling so good, I couldn't believe what I was doing in
the first round," Abreu said. "It's tough to believe."
ESPN estimated that Abreu's 41 homers traveled 17,565 feet. He
even chipped his bat on his 21st homer -- but the ball still cleared
the center-field fence.
"See that? Hit it too hard," he said before Phillies teammate
Jimmy Rollins brought him some new lumber.
Abreu went the other way to left-center for No. 24, then finally
made his 10th out after 17 minutes at the plate, ending his turn
and prompting a third standing ovation.
"Just trying to put on a good show. They enjoy it, that's what
it's all about," he said.
So much for pitcher-friendly Comerica Park being a poor site for
a power-hitting contest. In fact, the ball carried very well to
right field on a pleasant, 78-degree night.
"Unbelievable. He made it look it like it's too easy getting
the ball out of this park," Red Sox captain Jason Varitek said.
Representing his home country of Venezuela in baseball's new
international format, Abreu stopped twice to tip his cap to the
chanting crowd of 41,004 -- and once when Rodriguez, the lone
All-Star for the host Tigers, brought him something to drink at
"Looked like he could have hit homers all day. He had a groove,
just looked really smooth," said Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, who
hit his own famous homer in Detroit during the 1971 All-Star Game
at Tiger Stadium. "I wish they would have had this when I
Santana said he placed a call back home to his father, who told
him the country was "paralyzed."
With water fountains shooting high into the air in center field
after each long ball, it was an awesome display -- and maybe a bit
intimidating for the other competitors. The next batter, Jason Bay
of Canada, was shut out.
"Didn't make it any easier," Bay said.
Boston's David Ortiz of the Dominican Republic put on an
impressive show as well, also surpassing Tejada with 17 home runs
in the first round. But Ortiz was overshadowed -- and eliminated
when he connected only three times in Round 2.
In the semifinals, Abreu picked up right where he left off,
connecting on his first two swings. He finished with six in that
round, including three when he was down to his final out, which was
good enough to advance.
When they got to nine outs, players were tossed special gold
baseballs -- much like the red-white-and-blue basketballs used for
the final shot on each rack during the NBA's 3-point shootout.
"I had fun, and I made it farther than I expected to, so I'll
take it," Rodriguez said. "Bobby started off very hot, hitting
long bombs, and he just kept doing it all night."
Milwaukee's Carlos Lee of Panama was knocked out in the
semifinals. Also eliminated in the first round were Dodgers first
baseman Hee-Seop Choi of Korea, Texas' Mark Teixeira of the United
States and Atlanta's Andruw Jones of Curacao, who has 27 homers --
tied with Cubs slugger Derrek Lee for the major league lead.