When Corey Hart steps into the batter’s box in tonight’s State Farm Home Run Derby, he won’t just be hacking.
“There is definitely a strategy,” said Sandy Guerrero, the longtime Brewers coach who will serve as Hart’s pitcher tonight. Guerrero helped Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder win the event in St. Louis last year.
“You really want to make it to the second round and be strong, right?” Guerrero said. “To make it to the second round, you have to conserve energy. So we’re going to try to hit a ball, take a couple of pitches, hit a ball, take a couple more pitches. Keep your timing. Maintain your energy.
“You see a lot of the big guys in the Derby come in and hit 12 in the first round and then one in the second. That doesn’t get you far. We’re not saving bullets. We’re just not swinging at all the pitches.
“The other thing is, don’t swing too hard. Control yourself. You don’t get any points for hitting the ball 450 feet. I’d rather have him hit the ball off the top of the fence and have the wind blow it over. Those count the same.”
Guerrero and Hart go way back to 2003, when Guerrero was the hitting coach at Double-A Huntsville and Hart was the Southern League’s MVP.
Fielder tabbed Guerrero last year and edged Rangers’ outfielder Nelson Cruz for the Home Run Derby crown. Fielder hit 11 homers in the first round, six in the second and six more in the finals.
Did Fielder offer any special gifts to Guerrero for helping him win?
“A lot of people ask me that, and the answer is no,” Guerrero said. “Just for him to give me the opportunity to be on the mound at the All-Star Game, that was enough. A lot of people won’t understand that, but it is really an honor to be invited by one of the players to be around the best players in the game.”
Guerrero played in the Minor Leagues for the Blue Jays and Brewers. His father, Epy, is a legendary scout who spent time on the Jays’ coaching staff in the 1980s. Sandy Guerrero said he remembered attending the 1987 All-Star Game in Oakland with his dad.
“To be here with Corey and [Ryan Braun], guys who I have known for a long time, this is unbelievable,” Guerrero said. “For guys like me — I’ve been around baseball all my life with my dad — this is a feeling I can’t really describe.”