Juan Soto’s name came up recently in trade speculation after he reportedly turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract offer to stay with the Washington Nationals.
The outfielder was in the spotlight during Monday’s media sessions.
And Monday night, he took center stage by winning the Home Run Derby.
Soto tossed his bat high in the air after his 19th homer in the finals, surpassing Seattle Mariners rookie Julio Rodríguez to win by one.
“It feels amazing,” Soto told ESPN in an on-field interview.
Soto, 23, and the 21-year old Rodríguez are examples of some of the game’s young talent. One of the game’s all-time greats — 42-year old Albert Pujols — also provided highlights.
Players on the National League All-Star team gathered around Pujols before the St. Louis Cardinals great began his bonus round in his opening-round matchup with Kyle Schwarber of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Players on the American League roster ran over from near the other dugout to show appreciation for Pujols, who is in his 22nd major-league season.
Soon, every All-Star who was at the Home Run Derby circled Pujols in an impromptu salute.
“That was pretty awesome,” Pujols said when interviewed on the field immediately after his round.
Pujols wasn’t finished. The former Cub Schwarber, the event’s top seed, also finished his round with 13 home runs, leading to a one-minute “swing-off.”
Chants of “Albert Pujols” echoed throughout the ballpark. Cheers grew louder with each homer.
Pujols finished the first-round matchup with one more homer than Schwarber before losing in the semifinals to Soto.
Rodríguez reached the finals after hitting 32 homers in his opening-round win against Corey Seager of the Texas Rangers and 31 in the semifinals, denying the New York Mets’ Pete Alonso the chance for a three-peat.
Rodríguez went first in the finals and hit 18 home runs. Soto knew what he had to reach and celebrated between home and the mound after coming out on top.