The 2022 MLB season could not have come at a better time for home run PR. It’s been a tumultuous couple of years for the longball, as the “juiced ball” allegations (and subsequent tampering) called into question so many of the game’s most cherished moments. What was once universally celebrated as the most exciting feat in baseball became an item of suspicion; instead of rejoicing at the sight of each majestically-socked tater-tot, we were reminded of the sport’s great downfall into the Big Launch Angle industry. The home run had been tarnished, and it was a darn shame, too.
Then, just when all seemed bleakest, Aaron Judge stepped in to save the day. The towering Yankee slugger’s pursuit of the single-season A.L. record rejuvenated the public image of the home run. It even inspired the withering husk of Albert Pujols to emerge from his downward spiral just long enough to reach 700 homers, a truly rarified milestone that few imagined was possible to reach at his age. Between the two of them, Judge and Pujols provided the most exciting “record-watch” stretch since the days of Mark McGwire.
Of course, they weren’t the only only players go yard this year (though if you only watched SportsCenter, you may think that was the case). Today, we’re celebrating the most noteworthy homers of the season across the league. Here are my personal favorites, mixed with a few submissions from the brilliant PL Staff. Don’t hesitate to let me know what we missed!
Seth Beer‘s Hoppy Day (Apr. 7)
Some stories are almost too perfect to be believed. The 2022 Diamondbacks were definitely not one of those stories. But if you asked one of their fans to describe it on Opening Night, April 7 — A.K.A. “National Beer Day,” according to the U.S. Government — they’d have been hard pressed to pick nits. All thanks to Seth Beer, who delivered this towering shot of poetic irony to put win No. 1 in the books:
SETH BEER WALK-OFF HOME RUN ON NATIONAL BEER DAY
IT WAS WRITTEN
— B/R Walk-Off (@BRWalkoff) April 8, 2022
Anthony Rendon‘s Lefty Groove (May 10)
In baseball, some moments are so special they feel scripted. Others (most moments, in fact) feel random. Then there are few, like this one, that are so utterly chaotic that there’s simply no explaining it except “the baseball gods were having a laugh.” That’s how it felt watching Anthony Rendon, a right-handed batter, hit a left-handed home run off a pitch from Brett Phillips, a right-handed outfielder. Moments like this are the most special of all:
Anthony Rendon with a lefty homer!!
This game is MADNESS. pic.twitter.com/MXW56xuKgs
— MLB (@MLB) May 11, 2022
Vinnie Pasquantino‘s Debut, Upon Review (July 1)
Names carry a lot of weight in baseball. Some, like Guerrero or Griffey, carry certain legacies. Others, like Pasquantino, are just fun to say. And when your name is fun to say, you’re expected be play fun. Such was the burden for young Vinnie Pasquantino when he debuted for the Royals in late June. Fresh out of Triple-A Omaha, he went hitless in his first two games in Kansas City; but in game #3, he broke out with his first MLB hit in the most anti-climactic fashion possible. You know he’ll be telling this story to his kids one day, and that’s what makes this homer so hilarious — he thought he was out!
Vinnie’s first MLB hit is a HOMERUN! The Vinnie Pasquantino era has officially begun in KC! pic.twitter.com/LL9fshZ705
— Royals Daily (@Royals_Daily_) July 2, 2022
Trey Mancini‘s Camden Farewell (July 28)
The best thing about inside-the-park home runs, in my opinion, is that you don’t have to hit them out of the park. You just have to hit the ball hard somewhere, run fast, and hope that something calamitous happens to the nearest fielder. That’s exactly how it went for Trey Mancini, in what was ultimately his last game in Camden Yards as an Oriole. An inside-the-parker, inside the park you’re about to leave forever? Say no more, I’m sold:
Trey Mancini inside the park home run on what could be his last home at bat as an Oriole, and for the second time on Mo Gaba Day pic.twitter.com/unilb6JRMz
— Justin Fenton (@justin_fenton) July 28, 2022
Whit Merrifield‘s Double-Doink Dinger (Aug. 11)
One of my other favorite things about baseball (in addition to Brett Phillips, inside-the-park home runs and weird names) is how you can watch the sport your whole life, and still see something new tomorrow. One of those tomorrows came on August 11th, when Whit Merrifield hit a ball so hard (?) that it simply couldn’t decide if it wanted to go out or not. Like a dog that will only do its business when you personally escort it out the door, Merrifield’s homer took its sweet time going 2 (bounces):
WHIT MERRIFIELD DOUBLE BOUNCES OFF THE TOP OF THE WALL FOR A HOME RUN pic.twitter.com/Zzu8NWqNv7
— Mr Matthew CFB (@MrMatthewCFB) August 21, 2022
Coors Field’s Space Exploration (Sept. 5-9)
This is a special case, so we’re going to give credit to the beautiful longball-producing mothership that is Coors Field before shouting out individual players. The Rockies’ high-altitude home park has always been known as a dinger haven, but for one week in September, it was another level. From the start of Colorado’s series with the Brewers on Monday, Sept. 5, to the start of their series with the Diamondbacks on Friday, here’s a brief record of what went down:
- 4 games
- 20 home runs
- 16 400+ foot home runs
- 2 home-run-distance season records
It started on Monday, when Christian Yelich hit the longest home run of the year to-date at 499 feet:
The longest homer of 2022 belongs to @ChristianYelich. 💪
— MLB (@MLB) September 7, 2022
It ended on Friday, when C.J. Cron topped Yelich’s record shot by five feet:
CJ Cron hit this ball 504 feet. Coors.
(This is a fun one because A) the initial camera angle makes it seem like it hit the surface of Mars B) I don't know how much I trust a distance marker on a truck ad and C) whooaaa, what a blast.) pic.twitter.com/vXNrPTeZBp
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) September 10, 2022
Albert Pujols‘ Club-Crasher (Sept. 23)
As of the morning of September 23, 2022, three men in MLB history had 700 home runs to their name: Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron, and Babe Ruth. As of the following morning, Albert Pujols had officially joined the club. There’s not much else to say about this brilliant moment in baseball history, so let’s all just enjoy it one more time (ah, who am I kidding, several more times):
HE DID IT! Home run number 7⃣0⃣0⃣ for Albert Pujols! #Pujols700
— The Ringer (@ringer) September 24, 2022
Cal Raleigh‘s Drought-Quencher (Sept. 30)
Imagine, if you will, traveling back in time to the year 2001, on the day that the 116-win Mariners clinched the playoffs. Suppose you told them to cherish that moment, because they wouldn’t feel it again for 21 years. Perhaps they’d ask, “What happens in 21 years?” To this you’d simply reply, “The Big Dumper gets it done.” That’s precisely what happened, and it was glorious:
THE 21-YEAR DROUGHT IS OVER ☔
CAL RALEIGH HITS A WALK-OFF HOMER TO SEND THE MARINERS TO THE PLAYOFFS!!
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 1, 2022
Aaron Judge‘s Long-Awaited Party (Oct. 4)
Remember that time in September, when every sporting event was periodically cutting away mid-action to show the Yankees game, and Roger Maris Jr. was trending on Twitter? Ah, yes, it was terrible. He may have taken his time doing it, but Aaron Judge‘s record-breaking 62nd home run was well worth the wait:
HE DID IT! AARON JUDGE HITS NUMBER 62! pic.twitter.com/T8UGFUzOGo
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) October 5, 2022
Stephen Vogt‘s Last Hurrah (Oct. 5)
It may be overshadowed in the history books by what happened the day before, but you’d better believe it won’t be forgotten in the Vogt household. Two weeks after announcing his imminent retirement, the veteran catcher joined a similarly exclusive club with this incredible home run in his last career at-bat — eliciting a elated reaction from the Oakland broadcasters, and Vogt fans everywhere:
How can you not be romantic about baseball? pic.twitter.com/uJbZztRhbM
— Oakland A's (@Athletics) October 5, 2022
Yordan Alvarez‘s Playoff Statement (Oct. 11)
Mariners fans, you may as well stop reading here. We end on the moment that set the tone for the 2022 postseason, and gave the Astros their first victory en route to a World Series title. Bottom nine, two out, in comes Robbie Ray… and out goes that baseball in a hurry:
YORDAN ALVAREZ WALK-OFF HR TO WIN GAME 1 OF THE ALDS‼️ 🚀
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 11, 2022
Somewhere, at this moment, there’s a kid reenacting this moment with a whiffle-ball in their backyard. And ain’t that what it’s all about?
Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)