Hamilton steals show, but not title, at Home Run Derby

The Baltimore Sun

New York - Despite losing in last night's Home Run Derby final, the legend of Josh Hamilton keeps growing.

The Texas Rangers' 27-year-old outfielder is not only a budding superstar who leads the majors with 95 RBIs.

He's not just a born-again Christian and recovering addict who publicly speaks about overcoming his demons.

And he's more than a Home Run Derby record holder.

He's also a soothsayer.

First, though, here's what he did in last night's derby: He set a single-round record with 28 home runs - crushing the previous record of 24 set by Bobby Abreu in 2005. But he couldn't capture the title, losing in the final round, 5-3, to the Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau. Although Morneau is champion, Hamilton's performance, which included two 500-plus-foot blasts, is the one to remember.

But perhaps the most amazing thing about Hamilton's derby show yesterday is that he expected it. Sort of, anyway.

In the winter of 2006, when Hamilton had just completed a partial season of Single-A ball in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' system, he said he had a dream that he was being interviewed after the Home Run Derby in the Bronx. At the time, he had no idea Yankee Stadium would be hosting it.

"I was at the plate, I saw all the guys sitting around and then I was at the plate walking toward them and actually a lady came up and interviewed me," Hamilton said. "I was able to show everybody how I was there, why I was there and that was because of God's grace."

He didn't know whether he won the derby because he didn't see himself hit. He only saw the interview. He said he didn't share the dream with anyone at the time.

"I kept it to myself until, obviously, it was time to tell it," Hamilton said. "I don't believe in coincidences. It was part of the plan."

C. Jones loves Yankee, Shea

Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones waxed poetically about this year's closing of Yankee Stadium and what it's like to play here in a World Series.

"You pretty much know the road to the World Series is going to have to come through this place eventually," he said. "And if you can stand toe-to-toe with the best and conquer this stage, you've reached the apex. Not many people have been able to do it."

Jones said his father's favorite player was Yankees great Mickey Mantle, and he planned to take his dad to Monument Park in left field this week.

Jones' nostalgia doesn't stop with Yankee Stadium. He named one of his sons after Shea Stadium, where Jones hit his first homer. This is also the final year for Shea, and Jones said he hopes to get a seat or a sign as a keepsake.

Lee, Sheets named starters

Cleveland Indians left-hander Cliff Lee, who had never made an All-Star team and was stuck in the minors for a chunk of last season, was named the American League starting pitcher for tonight's game.

"Sometimes going through some failure makes you a better player in the long run," said Lee (12-2, 2.31 ERA).

Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Ben Sheets (10-3, 2.85 ERA) will start for the National League. It's his fourth All-Star Game but first start.

Hall of Famers converge

In celebration of the final season at Yankee Stadium, Major League Baseball is bringing back nearly 50 Hall of Famers for an on-field ceremony today. Each of the Orioles' Hall of Famers, Earl Weaver, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr., is expected to participate.


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