I'm Karl Ravech. On behalf of ESPN, we are delighted with the players and the personalities that have been selected and certainly the possibilities of what tonight can bring.
As you can see on the dais the ten players that will participate in tonight's Gillette Home Run Derby.
The American League is captained by five‑time All‑Star and leading All‑Star vote‑getter for the second time in four seasons, that's Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The National League captain is four‑time All‑Star and the National League's leading vote‑getter for this year's game, that is Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies.
Jose and Troy picked their teammates and personally invited each player to participate. Representing the National League and led by the captain, Troy Tulowitzki from the Cincinnati Reds, Todd Frazier; from the Colorado Rockies and coming back to Minnesota, Justin Morneau; from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Yasiel Puig; and from the Miami Marlins, Giancarlo Stanton.
And representing the American League and joining their captain, Jose Bautista from the A's, the defending Home Run Derby champion, Yoenis Cespedes; also from the A's, Josh Donaldson; from the All‑Star host, Minnesota Twins, Brian Dozier; and from the Baltimore Orioles, Adam Jones.
In a few minutes we will invite you to ask questions of the players.
This year's derby will introduce a new format, which features up to seven outs per round and bracketed play after the first round. So these ten are going to participate in the opening round, and the participant who hits the most home runs in each league in the first round automatically gets a buy to the semifinals. The next two players from each league with the most home runs, they'll go head to head against each other. And the winner of those match‑ups advance to the semifinals to face off against the league's top seed.
The final round will feature the winners of the American League and National League semifinals going head to head for the 2014 crown.
Once again, the event's going to raise a significant amount of money for charity, including the MLB Reviving Baseball in inner cities or the RBI program, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, as well as charities chosen by the captains.
The total amount of money distributed will be determined by the home runs hit during the competition. And for each orange FlexBall home run hit by a participant throughout the Gillette Home Run Derby, Gillette and Major League Baseball will combine to donate $10,000 to designated charities. Gillette and Major League Baseball will combine to make an additional donation of $5,000 for every non‑FlexBall home run hit throughout the 2014 Gillette Home Run Derby.
In addition to that, there's another new twist to this year's event that may lead to an all‑time, all‑time record charitable donation. Here to tell us about that is Sonia Fife, who is the general manager of Gillette.
SONIA FIFE: Thanks, Karl. Gillette has a 75‑year history of working with Major League Baseball. And so tonight it is truly a thrilling honor for us to be the title sponsor of the Derby. As Karl said, we will give a donation to the Boys & Girls Club of America, as well as RBI, Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities.
So we couldn't be more proud to be a part of this event. And as Karl said, we have a new twist tonight. This new twist will be marking the launch of Gillette's new razor with FlexBall technology, and has the opportunity to be able to give us an all‑time high donation tonight. We have established two FlexBall hit‑it‑here targets in the outfield. And if the players make maximum contact with the target, we'll be giving a one‑time incremental donation of $300,000. So it's going to be fun. And good luck to all of the players in hitting the target tonight.
For the fans we also have something. Right in the Target Field we have the FlexBall Grooving Lounge. So you have an opportunity to try our new razor, Gillette's new razor with FlexBall technology and also to make maximum contact.
Good night and have a really fun time tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Sonia. Thank you very much, Sonia.
And continuing another tradition of the great event we have ten youngsters down here in the front row, five from local RBI leagues and five from local Boys & Girls Clubs. Each of them will be paired up with a player in tonight's Home Run Derby. And the one whose players wins the derby will receive a $50,000 donation towards either a facility that is already there or a baseball field. And while that youngster will be the big winner, everybody's going to win, as each of the nine groups represented will each receive $5,000 worth of baseball equipment and uniforms.
I want to introduce the youngsters and reveal who they are paired with this evening. When I call your name, boys and girls, I want you to stand up and come up behind the player you are paired with. All of the National League youngsters are from the Twins RBI program.
From Brooklyn Park, Winston Lane, III, paired with Todd Frazier. Come up and stand behind Todd. From Minneapolis, Leah Thompson paired with Justin Morneau. From Minneapolis, Jesus Flores paired with Yasiel Puig. From St. Paul, Sinjin Kasaiis paired with Giancarlo Stanton. And from St. Paul, Leandra Dahlke, paired with Troy Tulowitzki.
On the American League side, all the youngsters are from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Twin Cities or from the Northland. From Minneapolis, Christian Halbur paired with Jose Bautista. Come up, Christian. From Duluth, Nathan Johnson paired with Yoenis Cespedes. From Minneapolis, Aris Wade paired with Josh Donaldson. From St. Paul, Desmond Lugos paired with Brian Dozier. And from Duluth, Aaron Lonetto is paired with Adam Jones.
And while they're up here, I'm now going to invite anyone that has a question for our Home Run Derby participants to please stand up, announce who you are associated with, wait for the microphone and then feel free to ask the questions and we will ‑‑ given that we are seen nationally, please if you are going to ask the question in Spanish, it would help if you would translate it for us in English.
Q. For Justin, can you just kind of describe the long road back, the road and back to the national stage. Did your confidence ever waver because of the concussion issues that you had?
JUSTIN MORNEAU: Yep, it's kind of exciting to be back here and to be a part of an event like this. It is hard to put in words what it means to be up on the stage with these guys and obviously just fell short of making the game. But to be able to come back, and still come back to Minnesota and do this, an event that's meant for fun, but at the same time it is a competition. Everybody is up here to win it.
You know, I have been able to appreciate being able to come back to things like this, or just to have good days and feel good out there playing. And I think it's going to be a different perspective and I feel very fortunate to be up here and to be able to be a part of this. So it's pretty rewarding to be able to sit up here with these guys.
Q. Giancarlo, how much does playing in Marlins Park having prepared you to win this event?
GIANCARLO STANTON: It is a big park. Nothing will really prepare you until you are out there with all of the fans and the atmosphere, and all of the good things that went on. So it will be fun tonight and we'll see how it goes. Q. For Brian and Justin, you guys have more time playing at Target Field. For the National League guys, I don't even want you to give away your secrets, but what's it like hitting home runs at Target Field and what advice can you give to them?
BRIAN DOZIER: Pull it straight down the line, that's pretty much it.
No, Target Field is a good place to hit. I am not a guy who likes to go deep like Donaldson or some of these guys beside me, but it is a short portion left. It's going to be impressive to see these big hitters, see how far they can hit it. And I was telling someone earlier, don't stand me next to Giancarlo Stanton, I played against him forever, but that guy is like a horse up there, man. He is double my size. But it is going to be fun to watch these guys hit.
THE MODERATOR: It is not how far, it is how many.
Q. Question for Justin. Is it fair to call your first half a career renaissance for you?
JUSTIN MORNEAU: I don't know, I am just happy to be out there playing and healthy and being able to contribute. That's kind of a hard term, I will let the media or whoever wants to make those titles.
But I never really stopped believing along the way that I can get back to contributing to a baseball team and trying to hit runs and being productive. And obviously it's been a long ride the last couple of years, but like I said before, I can really appreciate it a lot more now having gone through it and going through some rough times.
You know, it's supposed to be fun and I think I learned a lot more to have fun with it and whatever you want to call it. I am just happy that I am out there just playing.
THE MODERATOR: We will go with great story.
Q. Justin, you've won one of these, how much does that help? And you're left‑handed and there are not many of those out there. And they're talking about the winds blowing out to right field. Can you give us something.
JUSTIN MORNEAU: Hopefully it is a good day to hit then. Obviously it's a better park for right‑handed hitters, but the wind is something I checked actually when I woke up this morning. (Laughter.) So hoping it was blowing out to right.
But I think when you get to that derby you have so much adrenaline, it is not like taking regular batting practice where you have to slow yourself down with it.
Having experience with it the first time I was nervous. I am sure I will be nervous tonight. But going through it, knowing that you need to take pitches, you need to be patient, it's okay to take three or four in a row. And I think sometimes you're up there, not used to hitting without the cage on and all that stuff, and you get overexcited and start doing a little too much and start chasing pitches.
And I think that's the biggest thing I learned from being in these things, it is the exact opposite approach I take at the plate. But it is something having gone through it I think it can help you, but at the same time once you get on a roll and you start feeling good, and things start going well, I think you kind of forget what you're doing and that's when it becomes fun.
Q. This question for Brian. This Home Run Derby being in Minnesota, obviously 16 home runs this season so far, you are deserving to be here. How much more special is it that it is in your home park in front of your home fans?
BRIAN DOZIER: It means a lot. Very thankful. Jose picked me to be on the team, a very classy move from a classy man. And the Twins want a hometown guy, and it is awesome representing the Twins here at home.
And I know everybody here, especially the fans of the Twins would be very excited. Not for myself, but everybody up here, some of the stars in the game that can hit a lot of home runs. So I am just blessed to be up here along with these guys. It is pretty humbling for me.
Q. This one for Mr. Frazier. What is going to be more exciting, the Home Run Derby and All‑Star Game or playing in the Little League World Series?
TODD FRAZIER: That's a great question. I think when you are younger I think all you really dream about is playing in the Little League World Series. And as you get older this is another dream that comes true.
That would be a tough question, but I think ultimately you want to be a major leaguer when you grow up and you want to be a major league All‑Star, especially now in the Home Run Derby. You play with kids in the backyard and you know, it is just something I have always dreamed of and very thankful for.
THE MODERATOR: Probably not many of you hit a home run in the Little League World Series and then hit a home run in an All‑Star Game. Probably not many.
Q. This is for Todd and Brian as well. Both of you chose your brothers to throw to you tonight. What went into that decision? And do you think it might hurt you at all?
TODD FRAZIER: There really was no decision, I knew I was going to take him. I work with him in the off season a lot. He played with the Marlins for six, seven years in the minor league system and he knows what it is really all about kind of. It is a family affair. I am a big family guy and to have him out there, be special.
And we have been talking about it. So he is pretty hyped up and we're going to take this serious and we'll see what happens.
BRIAN DOZIER: The same thing for me. Like he said, it is kind of more family for me. It's going to be a good experience for myself, my brother, my family. My brother was a college pitcher. He's well aware of the strike zone, so to speak, and stuff. He keeps telling me all morning that he is not nervous, but I do not believe that at all. I can tell by his actions. But it's going to be fun. It really is. He is a lefty, I like lefties, we will see how it works out.
Q. This question for Yasiel Puig. You know I will say it in English first and then Spanish. Last year obviously the champion is Mr. Cespedes over there taking the title for Cuba. How important is it for you to keep it in Cuba and now for the National League?
YASIEL PUIG: I don't have any intention to dethrown anyone here, but I am here to do a good job. And I want to thank Troy Tulowitzki for choosing me and putting me on the N.L. team. My job here is to do a great job. I am a little nervous, but we'll see how I do.
Q. With the youth standing behind you it's really important to inspire them with baseball. How important do you feel that is to show that side and have fun?
ADAM JONES: I think sharing our sport, our love, our passion with the youth, I think the opportunities that we all on this panel have been able to inflict in our own communities is huge. And I think that with the measures we all have personally taken is saying great things about our own personal self because we try to make a difference, not just on the field, but in our own communities, saying that's important for young men and young ladies to see that.
Q. Troy, this is for you. Justin obviously became very popular around here just for the way he carries himself, the way he approaches the game. What has he brought to Colorado from that standpoint and how has that permeated the rest of the clubhouse?
TROY TULOWITZKI: The thing about Justin, he is professional. Obviously his time in Minnesota he learned to play the game the right way. The coaches did a great job over there.
The community, he really embraces the community. Everything about the guy, really, he's a pro and I guess that's the best way to describe him. I picked him as an easy choice. He's meant so much to the fans here in Minnesota. It's a great story. He's had a great first half for us. He very well could be on this All‑Star team and he should be.
But I think him and everything that he's been through and getting a chance to compete in this Home Run Derby is going to be special for his family and the fans in Minnesota.
Q. My question for Brian. Tonight you are making a special memory with your brother. Is there any special memory you had growing up with him, playing ball that kind of sticks out in your mind?
BRIAN DOZIER: Yeah, there's a lot. He is two years older than I am. He is a guy that pushed me a long way without him even really knowing, to be honest with you. There have been numerous amounts of time when I was catching when I was 10 and he was the pitcher and he walked a guy, and walked two straight and I walked out there and wanted to fight him on the mound. And the over/under back home is five pitches until I started doing the same thing tonight.
So it's fun. It's a relationship that we've had for a long time. And he has thrown a lot of batting practice to me, so I am well aware of the speed and all that kind of stuff he throws. But at the same time it is a family thing. It's going to be fun. But at the same time he is a competitor, I am a competitor. We are all up here to win, but it is also fun.
THE MODERATOR: Jose, you have done this before. Does the new format change the way you approach it. Will you try as hard as you can avoiding the second round, getting the buy, what is the approach tonight?
JOSE BAUTISTA: I think it does. You obviously want to take the least amount of swings that you can. So if that means trying to go all out in the first round and skip the second, that's I think going to be a benefit later on. The new format is pretty cool. I like the whole, you know, challenge with the brackets. I think people are going to like it, too. And more importantly, hopefully we can all put a great show on tonight and raise a lot of money for these charities.
Q. For Mr. Donaldson or Tulowitzki. How important is it having a teammate in the competition and what are you going to be talking to them about?
TROY TULOWITZKI: I think it is great to have a teammate for me. Coming back to Minnesota it made my decision very easy. There are other guys in the N.L. that wanted to participate all along and my choice was going to be Morneau because of how great the story is, and plus, he's very deserving. He won a Home Run Derby and the experience that he can give us here could benefit us because I think everybody besides him, this is our first Home Run Derby. Hopefully we can pick his brain a little bit and he can help us try to win this thing.
JOSH DONALDSON: Like Tulowitzki said, Cespedes won the Home Run Derby last year. And I picked his brain about it. And I told him earlier he may be the defending champ, but I am the people's champ and I'm going to take it back.
Q. For Jose, you always seem to crush the ball when you come here to Target Field. I know Justin talked about the wind. Anything you looked at in terms of hitting condition and putting the ball out towards left field tonight?
JOSE BAUTISTA: I think you touch on a key word there, and it's "left field." And I am a pull hitter and everybody knows that and that's exactly where I am going to be aiming. I am hoping one of those targets that are going to be out there to raise the extra money for charity is out in left. That's where I'm going to be aiming at.
Like you said, I experienced a lot of success in this stadium. I can't really explain why, but I hope I continue that trend and do a good job tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. On behalf of Major League Baseball and Gillette, thank you for attending and good luck to our participants.