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Abreu smashes record in Derby win

Abreu smashes record in Derby win

DETROIT -- Bobby Abreu's charged swing met Comerica Park's daunting fences, and not only did the park blink, it was lucky to come away from the meeting still standing.

The Phillies outfielder put on a breathtaking first-round exhibition, reducing fellow Major Leaguers to fans and fans to goose-pimpled quivers of awe, and kept on smoking to the championship of Monday night's CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby.

Abreu's 41-homer performance reduced to rubble all previous Derby records, and reduced himself to shaking his head in astonishment.

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"I was inspired. It's something I never imagined," said Abreu, who considered his growing homer total a demand for more. "I felt a lot of responsibility to put on the best show. And I did. It was something amazing. I did it, and I'm happy about it."

With personal fuse Ramon Henderson, the Phillies' bullpen coach, feeding him on the inside half of the plate, Venezuela's representative in the new international format smoked a one-round record of 24 homers, including several that topped the previous record-long in the six-year old park.

Leading off the entire competition, Abreu commandeered the plate for nearly a half-hour in his record 24-homer fanfare.

"I was getting so tired, but I had such a rhythm," he said.

Abreu kept pounding in the second round, leaving the yard six more times, setting a new overall Derby record with 30 homers and moving into the finals against hometown favorite Ivan Rodriguez.

"In the second round, I felt really tired," Abreu said. "But in the third, I wanted to give it 100 percent, give it everything I got. I was so tired, but I didn't want to let down."

Instead, Abreu ramped it back up, trouncing the Puerto Rican, 11-5, to finish the night with the ridiculous grand total of 41 homers. The 11 set yet another record, breaking Garret Anderson's third-round record of nine, set two years ago in U.S. Cellular Field.

Comerica favors left-handed hitters, but Abreu's first-round explosion was more than that. The three other lefty swingers in the international field -- Hee-Seop Choi, Mark Teixeira and Ortiz -- combined for 25 homers in that first round.

No one came close to Abreu, either in numbers or dramatics.

By the third homer, he had settled into a visible groove.

By the fifth, he had rocketed the longest homer in Comerica Park's six-year history.

Player & Total
Highlights
 
Bobby Abreu 41 56K | 350K Home Run Derby
Complete Coverage >
Ivan Rodriguez 20 56K | 350K
David Ortiz 20 56K | 350K
Carlos Lee 15 56K | 350K
Hee-Seop Choi 5 56K | 350K
Andruw Jones 5 56K | 350K
Mark Teixeira 2 56K | 350K
Jason Bay 0 56K | 350K

By No. 10, he had twice smashed his new distance record and was accorded a standing ovation by 40,000 fans.

By No. 16, he had set a new one-round record for 21 Midsummers of home-run derbies, breaking Miguel Tejada's one-year old standard of 15.

By No. 24, Abreu finished the round as a legend in at least two nations -- his native Venezuela, and Tigers Country, which had never seen a power show of such caliber.

Taking easy aim at cavernous Comerica's more-accessible right-field, the left-handed hitting Abreu peppered balls into and over the seats.

Asked how he felt through the experience, Abreu virtually giggled the word, "Great ..."

"I was feeling so good," he added. "I couldn't believe what I was doing. I was really so excited and happy. It was something tough to believe. I wanted to keep hitting as many as I could."

His first-round barrage was highlighted by a 517-foot blow to the entrance of the Montgomery Inn BBQ, located on the terrace above and beyond the right-field grandstand. That shot ranks as the second longest in Derby history, behind Sammy Sosa's 524-foot shot in 2002 in Milwaukee's Miller Park.

Five homers earlier, Abreu's 463-foot drive off the facing of that terrace had broken the previous house record of 457 feet by Eric Munson.

Both fans, who responded with numerous spontaneous standing ovations, and Abreu's countrymen quickly got caught up in his magic.

He kept answering the whipped up crowd's chants of "Bobby! Bobby!" ith yet another magnificent drive, into Kaline's Corner, or into the faraway right-center seats, or lined opposite field over the lower left-center fence.

All-Star Game 2005

After homer No. 16, which broke the single-round record of 15 also set last season by Tejada, Abreu was surrounded at the plate by fellow Venezuelans Melvin Mora and Johan Santana of the American League All-Stars and National League teammates Cesar Izturis and Miguel Cabrera, the latter two wrapped in a Venezuelan flag.

"It was exciting, with all the countries and flags and shows of emotion," Abreu said. "People have to stick together, no matter what country they are from. The players are the same way, and it showed."

Prior to the competition, Abreu was tentative about his chances, noting, "I'm not really used to hitting a lot of home runs in batting practice, but I'm working on it. I'll just enjoy the moment. It will be special."

But Philadelphia teammate Jimmy Rollins sensed something special was in the offing.

"Bobby is a very proud man, and he loves to represent Venezuela," Rollins had said. "He only wants to be the best, and wants to see Venezuela first in everything.

"He wants to go up there and do good. He knows he's good. If he doesn't win, I honestly think he'll be disappointed."

The evening did not end in disappointment, but in disbelief.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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