Yoenis Cespedes was the surprise winner of the 2013 Home Run Derby at Citi Field Monday night, becoming the first player to take the title while not being invited to play in the All Star game.
The Oakland Athletics outfielder from Cuba hit 17 home runs in the first round of the competition, before beating Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper in the final round.
In total, Cespedes hit 32 homers, half a dozen of which went into the upper deck, while one went 455 feet deep into center field, a distance rarely reached in Citi Field's four and a half year history.
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"I felt that I was getting into a very good rhythm, and that as long as the ball was right over the plate, I felt like I was in a good groove," Cespedes said through a translator, ESPN reported
. "That was the key."
In his second major league season, the 27-year-old Cespedes did not fare as well during the regular season as he did during Monday's Home Run Derby, with a batting average of just .225 and 15 home runs so far.
"This trophy will motivate me so that things continue to go well for me, and I just want to thank the people that believed in me, that thought I could play at this level," he added.
Baltimore Orioles' first baseman Chris Davis, who leads the majors with 37 home runs, was eliminated in the second round.
When asked how he would fare in a head-to-head matchup against Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig, who is also from Cuba, Cespedes predicted a similar outcome.
"Not to be disrespectful at all to Yasiel," Cespedes said with ESPN's Pedro Gomez translating. "I know him from Cuba, and this is not the type of competition he would excel at. He's not really a home run hitter. So I would definitely win."
When asked how playing in the major leagues differed from his experience in Cuba, Cespedes said, "It's far different from in Cuba."
"There might be two people at our games [in Cuba]," Cespedes added. "There's only one photographer, and this is completely different and foreign to me. But I'm very happy to be here."
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Having opened in 2009, Citi Field has allowed the fewest number of homeruns due to it cavernous dimensions and a recently erected fence dubbed the "Great Wall of Flushing."
"This stadium may be very difficult, but it's not as difficult as Oakland," Cespedes said. "And if I can do it in Oakland, I thought, why can't I do it here?"
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