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Hart finishes third in Home Run Derby

Hart finishes third in Home Run Derby

ANAHEIM -- Corey Hart put on a show in the first round of the State Farm Home Run Derby with 13 home runs, eliciting "oohs" and "ahhs" from the power-hungry crowd at Angel Stadium. About 90 minutes later, when it finally came time for Round 2, Hart's home-run stroke had escaped him.

"I was trying to stay up and active," he said with a shrug.

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But Hart was skunked in that second round and bowed out of the competition, missing a chance to give the Brewers back-to-back winners in the popular annual event. Prince Fielder won it last year in St. Louis, and this year's champ was Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who bested Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins, 11-5, in the final round.

"I knew coming in that [Ortiz] was one of the favorites," Hart said. "I figured it would be either him or [Detroit's Miguel] Cabrera. I knew if I got up with [Ortiz] I wouldn't really have a chance.

"I usually don't hit a lot of home runs, but I got into a rhythm early. In the second round, I couldn't find it."

"Remember, it happened to me before, the exact same thing that happened to him," Ortiz said of Hart's performance. "I hit in the beginning, shut it down for a while and coming back up, especially a big guy like him, sometimes it takes more time to warm up and do your thing. I think he did a really good job at the beginning and put on a good show."

Swinging one of his Wisconsin-made sugar maple RockBats, Hart belted 13 homers in the competition's first round, tying Ortiz's second-round output for the best set of the night. After a first-swing "out" -- the hitters kept swinging away until they made 10 outs -- Hart connected for five home runs in a row, including three to center field.

He hit four in a row later on, and five of Hart's 13 long balls traveled farther than 450 feet. His longest blast measured 464 feet.

Ortiz, Ramirez and Cabrera joined Hart in the second round. Hart was last of that quartet to take his cuts, and needed eight homers to tie Ortiz and Ramirez.

"The first round was easy because we just had batting practice so I was a little more fresh," Hart said. "But it was awesome. I would definitely do it again, though you never know how many more chances you'll get."

Hart was the third hitter to appear in the Derby, after Chris Young of the D-backs hit only one home run as the competition's leadoff man and Vernon Wells of the Blue Jays hit two. When Hart stepped into the batter's box, he wasn't just hacking.

"There is definitely a strategy," said Sandy Guerrero, the longtime Brewers coach who served as Hart's pitcher. Guerrero helped Fielder win the event with 23 total home runs in St. Louis last year.

"You really want to make it to the second round and be strong, right?" Guerrero said. "To make it to the second round, you have to conserve energy. So we're going to try to hit a ball, take a couple of pitches, hit a ball, take a couple more pitches. Keep your timing. Maintain your energy.

"You see a lot of the big guys in the Derby come in and hit 12 in the first round and then one in the second. That doesn't get you far. We're not saving bullets. We're just not swinging at all the pitches.

"The other thing is, don't swing too hard. Control yourself. You don't get any points for hitting the ball 450 feet. I'd rather have him hit the ball off the top of the fence and have the wind blow it over. Those count the same."

Guerrero and Hart go way back to 2003, when Guerrero was the hitting coach at Double-A Huntsville and Hart was the Southern League's MVP.

Fielder tabbed Guerrero last year and edged Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz for the Home Run Derby crown. Fielder hit 11 homers in the first round, six in the second and six more in the finals.

Did Fielder offer any special gifts to Guerrero for helping him win?

"A lot of people ask me that, and the answer is no," Guerrero said. "Just for him to give me the opportunity to be on the mound at the All-Star Game, that was enough. A lot of people won't understand that, but it is really an honor to be invited by one of the players to be around the best players in the game."

Guerrero played in the Minor Leagues for the Blue Jays and Brewers. His father, Epy, is a legendary scout who spent time on the Jays' coaching staff in the 1980s. Guerrero said he remembered attending the 1987 All-Star Game in Oakland with his dad.

Hart had fun with it, too.

"It's exhausting, though," he said. "But I'll be ready to go [in Tuesday's All-Star Game]."

Plus, he saved Brewers fans a couple of bucks. The team promised a $1 discount on Field Outfield and Loge Outfield tickets for Friday night games on July 23 vs. Washington and Aug. 6 vs. Houston for each homer he hit in the Derby.

The regular ticket price for Field Outfield seats is $40, and Loge Outfield is $30, meaning Field Outfield seats are now $27 and Loge Outfield seats are now $17.  Tickets sales are set to begin Tuesday at 9 a.m. CT through all of the normal outlets, including brewers.com. Ticket supplies are limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Last year, after Fielder's win, tickets were priced at just $5 for three games against the Padres thanks to the promotion. Those tickets sold out in 15 minutes.

Adam McCalvy 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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