CarGo kicks off week with memorable Derby

CarGo kicks off week with memorable Derby

CarGo kicks off week with memorable Derby
KANSAS CITY -- Though not a winning one, Carlos Gonzalez's first State Farm Home Run Derby performance was respectable -- and memorable.

"It was awesome," Gonzalez said. "It was a great experience for me. Being around those guys and being able to put on a show for the fans, it's fantastic. It's something I will definitely remember for a long time, and hopefully I get another opportunity to do it."

The Rockies' lone All-Star representative, selected for the highly anticipated event by National League captain Matt Kemp, tallied four home runs but was eliminated in the first round on Monday night at Kauffman Stadium, where Detroit's Prince Fielder was ultimately crowned Derby king.

Gonzalez became the seventh Colorado player to participate in the contest, joining Dante Bichette (1994), Ellis Burks (1996), Larry Walker (1997, 1999), Vinny Castilla (1998), Todd Helton (2001) and Matt Holliday (2008).

A natural line-drive hitter, the 26-year-old entered the annual event having compiled 17 home runs in the first half of the season, good for sixth in the NL. Along for the ride was a guy who has seen them all: Rockies bench coach Tom Runnells.

"I was delighted when he asked me to throw to him, because we've got a special relationship," said Runnells, who managed Gonzalez at the start of 2009 in Triple-A Colorado Springs before both men were promoted to the Majors. "As a coach/player, that's pretty neat. I probably wouldn't do it for everybody."

But he agreed immediately to pitch for CarGo, whom Runnells described as "easy to like."

"He's just a very special young man, and he's worked hard to be where he is," he said. "He's put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I feel obligated and honored to be able to help him along."

Awarded 10 outs, Gonzalez launched his first pitch from Runnells over the right-field wall, but he proceeded to pick up five outs before notching his second home run. Out No. 6 followed, and then so did his third homer, which was his farthest at 433 feet. Gonzalez racked up three more outs, at which point a Gold Ball was put in play.

For each Gold Ball home run -- Gonzalez hit one before flying out for his 10th and final out -- State Farm and Major League Baseball donated $18,000 to designated charities.

By night's end, Gonzalez admittedly felt slightly taxed, but not enough to take away from the experience.

"It's a little tiring, but once you're out there on the field, you forget about everything," he said. "It's a great feeling and a lot of excitement, so that keeps you motivated in the game. There's a lot of concentration. You get a little bit mentally tired because you're trying to make your swing perfect, but I feel good."

So he would do it again?

"Absolutely," Gonzalez said. "It's a great experience. It's fun. It's always fun having people screaming and enjoying the game. I'm not going to lie -- it is hard, but I knew it would be like this. It's a challenge. But, for me, I grew up competing, and I love competing. I love this type of stuff and the challenge. It's something that motivates me."

Said Runnells: "He has tremendous power. Obviously, it's different here, when every swing counts. But you know what? He definitely has the talent to put on a great show for people."

Jane Lee is a reporter for Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.