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St. Louis native Howard heads to Derby

St. Louis native Howard heads to Derby

PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard knows how to hit home runs in St. Louis.

He also knows how to win Home Run Derbies.

That should bode well for the Phillies slugger, who will compete with fellow National League first basemen Albert Pujols of the Cardinals, Prince Fielder of the Brewers and Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres in the 2009 Home Run Derby on Monday, July 13. The American League's four participants have not yet been announced.

Howard -- who grew up outside St. Louis and attended Missouri State University -- hit 153 homers from 2006-08, and he has another 20 this year. He is a career .381 hitter at Busch Stadium, his best at any NL park, and has homered seven times there in just 63 at-bats.

"There's not many opportunities where you get to play in an All-Star Game in your hometown," Howard said Sunday. "I think everybody is definitely excited and can't wait for it."

Howard took home the 2006 Derby crown at Pittsburgh's PNC Park, outslugging the Mets' David Wright, 23-22, overall and, 5-4, in the final round. Howard struggled a little more in '07, when his three first-round shots were insufficient to make the cut.

Since then, though, Howard has shown a penchant for dramatic home runs. Earlier this season, for instance, Howard launched a huge 475-foot homer to overtake Mike Schmidt as the Phillies' all-time leader in grand slams. Later in that game, he hit another 426-foot blast, producing 901 feet of power in one evening. Then, battling a high fever on June 20, Howard was discharged from the hospital in the morning only to hit a pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning to put the Phillies ahead by one.

Fielder finished with three homers in 2007, his only Derby. Pujols made the second round that year and finished second to Garret Anderson at U.S. Cellular Field in 2003. Gonzalez has never participated before.

David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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