* Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) of the Ontario Blue Jays was one of eight high school players competing in the junior Home Run Derby at Target Field on Sunday. He advanced to Monday night's final and hung with the big boppers. .... 2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott
MINNEAPOLIS -- The two sluggers sat in front of the third base dugout as the Gillette Home Run Derby unfolded at Target Field Monday night:
Returning hero Justin Morneau, of New Westminster, B.C., the former Minnesota Twins first baseman, was competing with the millionaires.
And Mississauga high schooler Josh Naylor of the Ontario Blue Jays wearing a Toronto Blue Jays cap.
Morneau and Naylor talked with each other and then swung for the fences in front of 40,558 fans.
“I asked Justin what it was like when he won the home run derby at Yankee Stadium in 2008 when Josh Hamilton hit all those homers,” said Naylor “and how many home runs he was going to hit tonight. He said ‘I think I’ll start with one and work from there.’”
Both came up short of wearing their respective derby crowns.
Morneau hit two homers (one 409 feet, the other 393 feet in the first round) and then lost to Cincinnati Reds’ Todd Frazier in a swing off.
Luken Baker of Spring Tex. beat Naylor 7-4 to win the junior home run derby. Naylor reached the second deck with one blast.
“I asked Justin about playing with the Canadian Junior National Team, how many years he was with the program, he asked how our trip to Cuba went,” said Naylor. “Justin asked me how our trip to Cuba went last week.”
Both Baker and Naylor used aluminum.
“I can do it with wood,” said Naylor, who along with Baker were two of six high schoolers (six from the U.S., one from Puerto Rico, and Naylor) who began the preliminary round Sunday at 8 am. That meant Naylor had a 5:30 wake up. “It was more relaxing Sunday when there weren’t that many people here.”
American League team captain Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays lost 7-4 to Cespedes in the third round.
Bautista hit 10 homers in the first round. Jesus Figueroa, the Jays' lefty batting practice pitcher, was a strike machine, as Hector Torres was for Cal Ripken when he won the home run derby at SkyDome in 1991, as Jose Cano was pitching to his son Robinson Cano in 2011 ... as all home run champs are. As much credit goes to the strike thrower as the man with the bat.
Giancarlo Stanton led the NL and earned a bye to the final along with Bautista.
Cespedes beat Josh Donaldson, after each tied with three, in a swing off.
Yasiel Puig was homerless.
Twins fans came to cheer Morneau.
And cheer they did.
From the upper reaches of the top deck, many wearing Morneau No. 33 jerseys, to box seats, to the field where Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield -- and the other two members of the Saint Paul four -- Jack Morris and Joe Mauer, possible future Hall of Famers -- all applauded.
Morneau was one of five NL players in the hunt for the Final Vote to win the final spot on the roster. He led after one day of voting. He led after two days before losing to Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs.
So Morneau, now a member of the Colorado Rockies, with 234 career homers -- 13 this year -- the rest in a Twins uniform was welcomed back, a hero’s welcome. Morneau held his cap over his head, motioned to the crowd and than placed his hand on his heart.
“I’ve been able to appreciate coming back to things like this or to have good days and feel good playing,” Morneau said Monday morning. “It’s given me a different perspective. I feel fortunate to be up here with these guys.”
His former manager Tom Kelly said he was impressed with Morneau watching the recent Rockies-Twins series, saying “he looks healthy and he looks like he’s happy playing. I haven’t seen that in a while due to the concussions and all the surgeries.”