Joey Gallo is in the home run derby.
The eight contenders this year are Gallo, Pete Alonso, Trey Mancini, Shohei Ohtani, Matt Olson, Salvador Perez, Juan Soto, and Trevor Story.
Aside from Gallo, there are a few interesting stories here. The biggest one might be Trey Mancini. He returned to baseball after overcoming Stage-3 colon cancer, having tumors removed, and undergoing rigorous chemo, all wo which made him miss all of last season, not to mention putting his career in jeopardy. Mancini noticed something wrong in spring training in 2020 when he was constantly fatigued. Doctors discovered he had a malignant tumor in his colon. Mancini was just 28. He beat cancer, now he is an All-Star, and in the home run derby.
Shohei Ohtani is doing something nobody has ever done in the history of the game. Pitching and hitting at an elite level. You can’t compare him to Babe Ruth because, while Ruth was the ultimate two-way player, he wasn’t a hitter and pitcher the same season. Once the Yankees turned Hall-of-Fame worthy pitcher into a hitter, Ruth’s pitching days were virtually over. The final sixteen years of his career he pitched only five time. He won those five games, as a matter of fact. What Ohtani is doing is amazing. He is leading all of baseball in home runs, with 32, and in triples with 4. On the mound, he 4-1 with a 3.49 ERA. It’s almost a guarantee every single Japanese TV will be tuned into the Derby and the All-Star Game to watch their hero.
Then there’s Joey Gallo. He was quietly having a good 2021 but in his typically unconventional way. He was walking his way there. While his batting average wasn’t high, nor will every be, he had developed the discipline to draw walks. Lots of walks. So many that he lead baseball in walking. So by mid-June his on-base percentage was .388, a stat that is often under the radar, especially when it comes to fan voting for the All-Star team. Then a light clicked on. More notably, the league decided to crack down on pitchers using foreign substances to artificially alter the flight of their pitches. From that point on, Gallo has played not just like an All-Star, but like an MVP. Since June 20, Joey Gallo is hitting .346, with an OBP of .485, 12 home runs and 20 RBIs, and a beyond-elite-level OPS of 1.523.
Suddenly, Gallo is on the radar. With home runs that are off the charts. Now, Rangers fans get to see him hit in the thin air of Coors Field in Denver. It might be like watching a video game.
Gallo will bring along Rangers third-base coach Tony Beasley to pitch to him. Like Mancini, Beasley had his own struggle with cancer, and recovery from it. For Beasley, it was rectal cancer.
In humble fashion, Gallo told mlb.com’s Kennedi Landry that the story here isn’t him, it’s Tony Beasley. He told her, “With what he’s been through and what he’s overcome, it’s like, that’s the story. It should be more about him, honestly, than me.”
Gallo heads into the All-Star break already with the most first-half home runs ever in his career. He is the first Ranger to ever hit ten home runs in ten games.
The Home Run Derby is Monday night. Is that the night the legend of Joey Gallo is finally told?