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Monday, July 11, 2011
All about the long ball

By Amanda Rykoff

MLB: The day before the MLB All-Star Game is one of just two days in the sports calendar without a major league sports game of any kind. But don't worry, we've still got action on the diamond. It is all about the long ball tonight with the 2011 State Farm Home Run Derby from Chase Field in Phoenix, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks (8 p.m., ESPN). Red Sox slugger David Ortiz captains the America League bomb squad and will attempt to become the first player to defend his Home Run Derby title since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998-99. Here are some other key things to know for tonight's slugfest.

Each league has four representatives. Ortiz (19 home runs) has selected an all-AL East lineup of Toronto's slugging sensation Jose Bautista (Major-leading 31 dingers at the break), Yankees sweet swinging second baseman Robinson Cano (15 taters) and Red Sox teammate and MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez (17 ding-dongs). National League captain Prince Fielder (22 moonshots) tapped Cardinals' outfielder Matt Holliday (14 round-trippers), Dodgers' stud centerfielder Matt Kemp (22 jacks) and Brewers' teammate Rickie Weeks (17 blasts). Kemp has averaged the longest home runs this year among the participants at 411 feet. Five of the last six winners have been lefties, including the last three champs, Ortiz, Fielder and Justin Morneau.

There's a new twist on this year's Home Run Derby. Of course we'll have an individual derby winner, but for the first time since 1994, a league champion will also be crowned. The total number of taters hit by all players in all rounds (opening round, semifinal round and championship round) will be included in each league's total, so every long ball counts.

A quick refresher on the rules: All eight players get 10 outs per at bat in the opening round (an out is anything a player swings at that's not a home run). The four leaders from the opening round, regardless of league affiliation, move on to the semifinals. In the semis, each player gets another 10 outs per at bat. The two players with the highest total number of ding-dongs (opening round plus semis) advance to the championship round. In the final round, both players start fresh at zero and get 10 outs per at bat. The slugger with the most home runs wins.

Information from ESPN Stats & Information was used in this report.