On Monday night, Chris Davis stepped into the batter's box at Citi Field in New York. But he wasn't hitting for the Orioles. He was representing the American League in the Home Run Derby.
Coming into the competition, the Oriole's first baseman was the league leader in home runs with 37, tying a record of the most before the All-Star break set by Reggie Jackson back in 1969. All eyes were on the 27 year-old as he swung the bat and blasted hit after hit into the stands.
"I was a little anxious right before everything started," Davis admitted. "But once I got in there and hit a few, I felt pretty good."
The competition was divided into three rounds. Each round, players would get unlimited pitches. They could stand and watch the ball fly by, take their time and really find the perfect pitch. Home runs were tallied as they were hit. Each ball hit that didn't result in a homer was counted as a strike. Each player was allowed ten strikes per round. The top four home run hitters from the first round moved to the second round and the top two hitters from the second round moved to the third. Homer numbers carried over from the first round to the second, but then were wiped clean for the third round.
Davis made it through to the second round of the competition after tying for second in the first round with eight. He was able to hit four more homers in the second round, bringing his total up to twelve for the night, but wasn't able to lift enough hits over the fence before his tenth strike came along. He exited the competition then, but not without giving the Orioles fans, and the fans in the stadium, a good show.
Davis was aware of certain players in the past changing up their swing to gear up for the competition and struggling because of it in the second half of the season. But he refused to even consider it.
"I wanted to be conscious of not changing my swing at all," he shared. "I tried to stay up the middle and let the ball travel and not try to get pull heavy. But it looks a lot easier on TV than it really is. Once you get out there and start swinging and your adrenaline wears off, you realize how tough the Derby really is. It's exhausting."
Despite the physical toll of the Derby, Davis was excited to participate.
"The Home Run Dery is something you watch as a child and dream about doing someday, so when I got the opportunity, I jumped at it...I said for sure I would do it."
Davis can be seen tonight, July 16th, starting at first base in the All-Star game alongside four of his teammates (two more starters and two reserves). The game will be broadcasted on FOX at 8PM.