MINNEAPOLIS -- Heading into Monday night's Gillette Home Run Derby at Target Field, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones was coy with his predictions.
"Let it fly, have some fun," was all Jones would reveal of his expectations. "There's going to be a lot of smiles, there's going to be a lot of laughing. There's going to be a lot of home runs."
He was right about much of it. Yukking it up with American League All-Star teammates, media members and friends until seconds before stepping into the right-handed batter's box, Jones lasted until the second round of the Derby, ultimately losing a head-to-head matchup with defending champion Yoenis Cespedes of the A's.
"You can't be too mad about that, losing to Cespedes," Jones said. "He got hot and it was a beautiful thing to see."
Though Jones outhomered Cespedes in the first round, giving him the luxury of batting second in Round 2, the A's outfielder responded with a nine-homer barrage that proved too much to overcome. Jones could take solace only in the fact that Cespedes went on to win the whole thing for the second straight year, dispatching Toronto's Jose Bautista in the third round before slamming nine homers to upend Cincinnati's Todd Frazier in the finals.
"You're with the elite of the game, and then you get your family and friends mixed in -- it adds so much to it," Jones said. "It's a blessing I'm here."
Jones may not even lead his own team in home runs -- fellow All-Star Nelson Cruz holds that honor, with 28 to Jones' 16 -- but he became an obvious choice for Derby admission once Cruz declined his invitation. One of only 10 big leaguers to hit at least 30 home runs in 2012 and '13, and one of only seven with at least 80 homers since the start of '12, Jones has established himself as one of the premier power hitters in baseball. The few balls he did put charges into Monday went far. Very far.
Jones also continued a legacy of Derby performers hailing from Baltimore. The Orioles are one of eight teams with multiple Home Run Derby winners: Cal Ripken Jr. in 1991 and Miguel Tejada in 2004. They have also employed plenty of participants in the past, from Ripken and Eddie Murray in the '80s and early '90s, to Brady Anderson, Rafael Palmeiro, B.J. Surhoff and Tejada more recently, to Chris Davis just last year.
Calling the Derby a "bucket-list thing for me," Jones put his initial stamp on the highlight reel with four first-round homers, including one moon shot to the second deck in left field. He finished with seven total homers: four in the first round and three in the second.
Major League Baseball altered the Derby format this year, expanding it to four rounds and setting up bracket-style matchups between competitors in Rounds 2, 3 and 4.
Of greatest significance for Jones, however, was his time spent on the field and in the American League dugout, joking with teammates and bonding with friends.
"I had the time of a lifetime," Jones said, estimating that he brought close to a dozen friends and family on the field with him. "The fans in Baltimore loved it. The fans here that came loved it. This is what it's about -- it's about having fun. I'm glad I participated. I would do it again."