Well, Mike Moustakas is headed to Miami no matter what.
Moustakas, the Royals’ third baseman, will be the club’s first participant in the Home Run Derby in 26 years. He will compete next Monday at Marlins Park in Miami, Major League Baseball announced.
“I’m really excited,” Moustakas said Monday night after the Royals’ 3-1 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field. “It’s going to be an awesome experience, that’s for sure. I’ve never actually been to Miami. So I’m pretty excited to go there and check it out.”
When Moustakas takes his swings in the competition, which is part of the All-Star Game festivities, he will do so as a Royals record holder.
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In the second inning of the Royals’ game Monday night in Seattle, Moustakas clubbed his 23rd home run of the season — a 396-foot laser beam down the right-field line. No player in Royals history had ever hit more than 22 homers before the All-Star break.
Moustakas, 28, is on pace to shatter the Royals’ franchise record of 36 homers in a season, set by Steve Balboni in 1985. The 23rd home run is a career record for Moustakas, who moved into a tie for fourth-most in the American League this season.
That’s why he was a prime candidate for The Home Run Derby, which features an eight-man field. Joining Moustakas will be the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Bour, the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger, the Twins’ Miguel Sano and the Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon.
“Just being able to compete against those guys is going to be awesome,” Moustakas said.
The last Royals player to compete in the Home Run Derby was Danny Tartabull in 1991. Tartabull hit two homers in the first round and did not advance.
Bo Jackson competed in the Home Run Derby in 1989. Jackson hit just one in the competition, but famously opened the bottom of the first inning of the All-Star Game with a home run to center field and later was voted the Most Valuable Player of the game.
Moustakas’ spot in the All-Star Game is a possibility, but not a sure thing. He is one of five finalists in the Final Vote contest in the American League. He is competing against Tampa Bay’s Logan Morrison, New York’s Didi Gregorius, Boston’s Xander Bogaerts and Texas’ Elvis Andrus.
As Moustakas found himself on the Final Vote list, he also received a phone call from the Major League Baseball Players Association, wondering whether he’d be interested in participating in the Home Run Derby. Moustakas said he called his wife and family, asking if they were cool with an All-Star break in Miami. On Monday, he came into the clubhouse and asked his teammates.
“Everybody was excited for me to do it, and I was definitely really excited,” Moustakas said. “Just being in California (before) the All-Star break, it’s going to be kind of long journey, but it’s definitely going to be worth it at the end of the day.”
At the very least, Moustakas will be cheered on at the Home Run Derby by a pair of teammates: Catcher Salvador Perez and left-hander Jason Vargas have already been chosen to the American League All-Star team.