"He's got a lot of power and ability, and we all know that," A's third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "We get to see it a lot. He's a special guy, a guy we care for a lot. And when the lights get brighter, he gets better. Especially in things like this, he kind of smells blood and he goes for it."
Yeah, but eight swings into the first round Monday, it was actually his blood that the other eight Derby contestants thought they were smelling. He was the 10th and final man to bat in this extravaganza. And with one out left in his round, he'd hit just two home runs, which would have ended his night before the fun even began.
"But you know what? He didn't panic," Gallego said. "I even asked him, 'Are you OK?' And he said, 'No problem.'"
That simple. No problema. And Cespedes wasn't kidding. He lofted the next pitch into the first row of the seats in left. And the rampage had begun.
Starting with that swing of the bat, he would go 36 swings -- from that point in the first round through his 11th swing in the finals -- without ever making two "outs" in a row. It was practically Josh Hamilton-esque, minus the skyscrapers and the monuments.
He eliminated Donaldson in a "swing-off" after the first round with two lightning bolts in two swings. Then he took down Adam Jones in the next round with a nine-homer light show in which he never, at any point, went two consecutive swings without a home run.
Next, he wiped out AL captain Jose Bautista with seven more rockets into the seats in his first 10 swings of Round 3. And when NL finalist Todd Frazier tried to put the pressure on Cespedes by forcing him to hit first in the finals, Cespedes turned that pressure cooker right around on him by mashing five homers in his first eight swings, seven in his first 11 and nine in his first 14.
Asked about that brilliant strategic ploy afterward, Frazier laughed: "I thought he'd be a little tired. But he wasn't. Obviously."
As Frazier tried to keep loose in the underground batting cage, Cespedes was putting on one last fireworks show, squashing six home runs in the final round that ESPN's Home Run Tracker estimated would have traveled at least 460 feet if the stadium hadn't gotten in the way. Two would have sailed more than 500 feet.
The first was a projected 504-foot rainbow that broke up a party in a second-deck suite in deep left-center. The second was an even more ridiculous Mars probe, estimated at 509 feet, that felt as if it hung in the night for about 45 seconds before it landed in another luxury suite, two decks up in left-center and three sections over from the foul pole.
"I'm in the cage, and I hear the crowd, and I'm going, 'Well, there goes another one,'" Frazier reported, still shaking his head. "And then, 'Hold on, there's another one.' I could just hear the crowd going crazy. But that's what he does. And he did it last year. And he did it again this year. So he's the champ. That's why he's the champ."
So there, on one hand, you had the man Cespedes had just beaten, incredulous over a bunch of tape-measure home runs he'd never even seen. And on the other hand, you had Gallego, the guy who served up every one of them, still overwhelmed just by the noise those blasts make on the way by.