Sluggers eager to show off in Home Run Derby

Sluggers eager to show off in Home Run Derby

Sluggers eager to show off in Home Run Derby
KANSAS CITY -- The Gold Balls? They've raised thousands of dollars for worthy causes since they became a pivotal part of the annual State Farm Home Run Derby.

The Gold Shoes? That's a new addition, courtesy of Matt Kemp.

Kemp debuted and donned the spectacular sneakers at the pre-Derby press conference here Monday, adding a little more flair to the pre-power proceedings.

"This is an L.A. thing," Kemp explained. "These are Christian Louboutins. Barney's."

At that point, it remained to be seen if Kemp had the clout to match the attire.


But what was evident, in these moments before the American and National League representatives descended upon Kauffman Stadium for Gatorade All-Star Workout Day, was that Kemp was ready to have a little fun. And after six weeks of waiting out and rehabbing a left hamstring strain, he was due.

"I feel really great," Kemp said. "I just got finished doing my last rehab stint in Albuquerque and my legs feel good and ready to get back into the field. I've been feeling like a cheerleader the last month and a half. It's good to be around these guys."

Kemp, captain of the NL Derby squad, won't be participating in the All-Star Game itself, but he was ready to test his strength in the Derby. And he wasn't the only one. AL captain Robinson Cano, the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista, the Tigers' Prince Fielder, the Angels' Mark Trumbo, the Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez, the Cardinals' Carlos Beltran and the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen all took their turns talking about the excitement caused by and the endurance required by the Derby.

"For me," Bautista said, "it's about getting into a good rhythm and feeling in sync. If I can get into a good rhythm, I can hit them out and hopefully I can shoot a good show out there."

Of course, Bautista was quick to point out that he's hardly a Derby success story to this point. When asked what it takes to swing so hard for so long, he quickly deferred.

"I just hit four [last year], and only in the first round," Bautista said with a smile. "So I'll pass that [question] on to somebody else."

Cano and Fielder are both past Derby champs, and the show Cano put on at Chase Field last summer -- with his father, Jose, tossing to him -- was a memorable one, indeed.

Not only did Cano recruit the AL team, but he also brought his father back for more.

"Oh, he's back," Cano said confidently. "Yeah, he's back. He said he can't wait. So hopefully he will throw a lot of strikes tonight again."

The Derby field has more than just individual bragging rights on the line. This event raised more than $600,000 for charity last year and will once again be a huge help to the Boys & Girls Club of America (BGCA) and other causes.

Eight members of the Kansas City-area chapters of the BGCA were paired with the eight Derby participants, and the club member matched with the Derby champ will earn a $50,000 donation from State Farm for their local chapter in support of the BGCA mission to enable young people to achieve their goals in life. For each home run hit with one of the Gold Balls, an $18,000 donation will be made to charity, and State Farm will kick in another $3,000 for every ball hit with a non-Gold Ball. Kemp and Cano also each chose a charity close to their heart, and a donation of $150,000 will be made to the winning captain's charity, with $25,000 going to the losing team captain's charity. The BGCA will also receive a $100,000 donation in the name of the winning team's captain.

The two captains both admitted they had some tough decisions when it came to the Derby squad. They singled out Josh Hamilton and Ryan Braun as two guys who made it known they didn't want to participate. And Cano was booed heartily by Kansas City fans during the Derby introductions because he didn't put a Royal -- designated hitter Billy Butler is the club's lone All-Star representative -- in the Derby.

"I get to pick the [Derby] team before they announce the [All-Star] team," Cano explained. "Don't get me wrong, I like Billy, great season. But it was a tough decision for me. You know these guys, like you have Adam Dunn, it was a tough one. It's like the team. Sometimes you're going to make decisions that are going to be the right one but not always going to be the right one."

Cano thought he made the right decision in giving the young Trumbo a shot, based off a batting-practice performance he recently took in.

"I got a chance to see him hitting BP when we faced them at their place," Cano said. "I came early to talk to [Albert] Pujols, and I said, 'I've got to pick this guy, he's going to help me to win.'"

Kemp originally selected the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton for the NL squad, but a knee injury sidelined him and opened the door for McCutchen, who joked that he's just a "little guy" when compared to Stanton.

Big or little, the Derby crew was just hoping to put on a good show for the fans at Kauffman Stadium while raising money for some good causes.

"Of course, we are all trying to hit a home run," Gonzalez said. "But at the end of the day, we all are going to come back tomorrow to play a game, and you know, we have just got to do the routine that we always do during BP."

The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. (EDT)/6:30 p.m. (CDT). ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.

Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.