Major League Baseball Just Announced a Bonkers International Home Run Derby Competition

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Major League Baseball Just Announced a Bonkers International Home Run Derby Competition

Chicago Cubs

You can almost imagine the board room where people were shouting out all the things that they think people want most from baseball – “Dingers!” “Fire!” “Nostalgia!” “International!” “Influencers!” “Weird rules!” “The letter X!” – to come up with the latest baseball-adjacent event. I do think there COULD be something fun here, but there’s definitely an energy to it that feels a little too how do you do, fellow kids. It’s like, whoa now, just take it easy. Let the idea speak for itself.

I’m talking about MLB’s announcement today of Home Run Derby X (the link for which does not work in the tweet, but here’s the working link):

From the description: “That’s the spirit with which Major League Baseball has just announced its brand new global bracket-style competition, Home Run Derby X. Inspired by the success of MLB’s Home Run Derby, four teams representing the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs will compete in this tournament set to be played in London, Seoul, and Mexico City later this year.”

The teams are made up of a combination of former players, pro women’s baseball/softball players, an “influential content creator,” and a player from that region’s local development system. Which is to say, the “Cubs” team will feature former Cub Geovany Soto and no other actual Cubs-connected people. I have no problem with the teams being what they are, of course, but it’s like … that is not the Cubs. Kinda misleading. (Nick Swisher, Jonny Gomes, and Adrian Gonzalez are the other named former players.)

Setting that aside, the RULES for the event are actually potentially enjoyable. It reminds me of some of the old Rock n’ Jock competitions from back in the day:

First up, the field will be a little different from what you’re used to. Home plate will be mounted on a stage and the pitcher’s mound will be elevated on a podium. These are the focal points of the action and they are going to be treated as such. The field of play is also smaller, but just like in the Majors, each one will be slightly different based on where it’s located to fit its environment — whether it’s a festival site or a stadium ….

Here, the gameplay gets a little more intense. Beyond swinging from a mounted batter’s box, hitters will get to swing at 25 pitches and take up to 10 of them. That means they can see — at most — 35 pitches every at-bat. Obviously, they’ll be swinging for the fences like in a traditional Derby, but if you ever played the MVP 2005 mini-games, you may be a little familiar with what’s next: Batters can also earn points by hitting the targets. There will be two of them placed about 160 feet from home plate and another two set beyond the outfield fence for the power hitters to take aim at.

Finally, there’s one more twist: The opposition will have players in the outfield. They’ll earn points by catching any balls that fail to make it over the fence. Yes, this Home Run Derby has defense.

Teams will get one point for every home run, target hit, or catch, but players can also call for a “hot streak” that will allow teams to double their points on the following five pitches.

*IF* you can execute that well for TV, this could be a fun kind of sideshow. It sounds absolutely ridiculous, so make sure you lean into that. This is the kind of thing where if it gets too self-serious – always a risk when MLB is involved – that’s when it flames out, not unlike the overly aggressive use of fire in the teaser video. It should be silly, because that’s where your success is going to be. Yeah, it’s a “competition,” but come on. Old retired players and Instagram-lebrities are hitting from elevated platforms around the world and trying to hit targets on a weirdly-shaped field. Keep it dumb and fun. Good luck.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.