Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez to compete in Home Run Derby in Seattle next month

BALTIMORE (AP) — This year’s Home Run Derby now has a hometown favorite: Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez is in.

Rodríguez, who finished second last year in the event to Juan Soto, said Friday it’s a no-brainer to participate in front of his home fans. The All-Star game is July 11 in Seattle, with the Home Run Derby the previous day.

“This probably will never happen again in my career — being able to do that for them at the home field definitely will be something that I’m looking forward to,” Rodríguez said before Friday night’s game at Baltimore.

Rodríguez won Rookie of the Year honors last year and helped Seattle make the postseason. The talented outfielder hit 81 homers in the Home Run Derby in Los Angeles, although he lost to Soto in the final.

“I know LA was cool. I enjoyed it,” Rodríguez said. “But being able to be at home and put on a show for the Mariners’ fans, I know it’s going to be really exciting.”

He’s set to become the first Seattle player to participate in the Derby back-to-back years since Ken Griffey Jr. did it from 1997-99, winning in 1998 and 1999. And while it’s still early in his career, the 22-year-old Rodríguez seems well on his way to being the face of the Mariners’ franchise for a while. Rodríguez began a $209.3 million, 12-year contract with Seattle this season. It could be worth $469.6 million over 17 years if he wins two MVP awards.

Rodríguez recently became the second-fastest player to reach 40 homers and 40 steals for his career, doing it in 200 games.

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