This wasn’t supposed to happen. God, this wasn’t supposed to happen. Yet, there was Justin Bour wiping his sweat with fans chanting his name. There he was, smacking his 17th homer and letting out a shout and flexing his arms. And there he was, walking off to a standing ovation.
After his teammate Giancarlo Stanton had already been upset by New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, he wasn’t supposed to unseat No. 2 seed Aaron Judge in Monday night’s home run derby at Marlins Park. But as he finished his round, his 22 homers were the most of the derby’s seven contenders.
Despite being the No. 2 seed, he leads the Major Leagues with 30 home runs. He’s also unusually large for a baseball player at 6-foot-7, 280 pounds. And he was matched up with Bour. Whoever hit the most homers between them moved on to the next round.
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“I’m gonna have to hit quite a few homers in the first round,” Bour admitted ahead of the derby, “going against this guy. About 100 will do.”
He was a tad off with his estimation, but his idea was correct: It was going to take a lot of homers to beat Judge. And when he finished, it looked like Bour might have enough. His teammates, Marcell Ozuna and Stanton, thought so, giving him hugs and shoves as he walked off.
With Stanton already out, the hometown crowd was behind Bour. Boos rained down on Judge as he stepped in. But after some early pop-ups, Judge settled in and showed the crowd why some considered him the favorite.
The New York slugger launched 23 homers to best Bour’s 22, sending the Marlins’ last hope home with nothing despite hitting the second-most homers.
Bour was unavailable for comment after the contest, but leading up to it, he said he wasn’t taking it too seriously. He was just trying to have fun.
“You get a little bit of jitters,” he said, “but once that first one goes flying it’s all gonna be good. We’re gonna have a great time.”
His first round led to Judge feeling some jitters before he came up for his turn. He admitted that after the derby. But he also said that Bour’s performance was the biggest motivator toward him eventually capturing the derby crown.
“I was just trying to get out of the first round, to be honest,” he said.
“Once Justin put on the show like that, I had to go to work. So I just went out there and said, ‘I’ve gotta go to work.’”
He also said Bour worked him the hardest. He was fresh after besting Miguel Sano in the competition’s final round, but not after beating Bour.
“I was pretty tired,” he said. “That was the one that kinda got me.”
Bour’s teammate and All-Star Game starter Marcell Ozuna said his performance was impressive, but he also wasn’t surprised Bour was bested by Judge.
“He was a good competition for him,” Ozuna said of Bour. “But Aaron Judge out there is unbelievable. If it would have been somebody else? Maybe.
“He didn’t have a chance with that guy. That kid is amazing. That kid is [expletive] unbelievable.”