ESPN’s Passan: ‘Showman’ Julio Rodríguez gave the show derby fans needed

Jul 11, 2023, 1:50 PM | Updated: 1:51 pm

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodríguez...

Julio Rodríguez of the Seattle Mariners is introduced ahead of the 2023 Home Run Derby. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

For the second time in as many years, the talk of the baseball world after the MLB Home Run Derby wasn’t the player who won it. Instead, it was centered around what Seattle Mariners superstar Julio Rodríguez did.

Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez: ‘Electric’ derby crowd ‘meant the world to me’

Rodríguez stole the show with 81 total homers at Dodger Stadium as a first-time All-Star and derby participant in 2022, and on Monday night he topped himself when he competed in the derby in front of Seattle fans at T-Mobile Park, breaking a record for most home runs in a single round with 41 (watch here).


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Nevermind that Rodríguez didn’t make it past the semifinals, let alone win – that honor went to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Toronto Blue Jays slugger who previously held the record for most homers in a round. What Rodríguez did when he first stepped up to the plate Monday night in front of a sold-out crowd of Mariners fans buzzing for him to wow them is what the 2023 derby will always be remembered for.

“He felt the energy of that place and knew exactly what he needed to do,” ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan said Tuesday morning on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, “and I think he was willing to sacrifice winning the entire thing to go out and have one ridiculous round – because isn’t that what all the local fans are going to remember? This is not going to be (remembered as the year) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. won the derby, just in the same way that 2019 was not (about how) Pete Alonso won the Derby, it was Vladimir Guerrero hit 40 home runs in a round.”

The first question Passan was asked when he joined hosts Brock Huard and Mike Salk was to finish this sentence: “Julio Rodríguez is…”

Passan’s response had everything to do with how Rodríguez performed to the moment.

“Awesome is just so boring and easy, but it’s the first thing that popped into my head. You know, OK, I’ll do it: Julio Rodríguez is a showman. That’s what he is,” Passan said. “… When he came up (to the big leagues) and ‘J-Rod Show’ was sort of his nickname, I was just like, ‘Ehh, it’s an iffy nickname. I’m not a big fan.’ No, it fits, because that’s what he is. There’s this magnetism about him.”

Rodríguez clearly didn’t have the same amount of energy in the second round of the Home Run Derby, but Passan doesn’t think him ultimately falling short in the competition this year will matter in the long run.

“Here’s the thing: one of these years he’s going to want to hoist the trophy above his head,” Passan said. “… I picked him to win the derby on the pregame broadcast and I almost didn’t do it because he was up yesterday morning, like, at 8:30 going and meeting and greeting and shaking hands and kissing babies and giving a speech. … These are long, long weeks, and Julio takes all of that on.”

With Rodríguez still just 22 years old, Passan expects there will be a shift at some point in how much of his time he gives to being the superstar in the spotlight that fans and sponsors want him to be. But for now, especially in a year where Seattle becomes the center of the baseball universe for MLB All-Star Week, he’s doing his best at trying to be the biggest superstar he can be both on and off the field.

“There is going to be a point – it’s not here yet – where he’s going to stop doing that and where he’s gonna say, ‘I’m putting all my energies toward winning a championship, and that more than any brand building or more than putting myself out there is going to be the only priority,'” Passan said. “But for now, he is trying to do it all at once – and he showed last night he is doing it pretty successfully.”

Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with Passan in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

More on Seattle Mariners’ All-Star Week

Seattle native Corbin Carroll soaks in hometown MLB All-Star debut
Passan’s biggest All-Star surprise? Mariners fans’ hatred of Astros
‘Something we should all be proud of’: What Mariners All-Stars have to say
Seattle Mariners 2023 MLB Draft Tracker
Seattle Mariners ‘aggressive,’ target ‘big upside’ with top MLB Draft picks

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ESPN’s Passan: ‘Showman’ Julio Rodríguez gave the show derby fans needed