Fernando Tatis Jr. revealed early Friday afternoon that he would not participate in this year’s Home Run Derby, then went out and put on a home run derby of his own.
Tatis, one of the game’s most dynamic young players, homered three times in the San Diego Padres’ 11-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Petco Park, raising his National League-leading total to 25. Tatis is now tied for the major league lead with another young star, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays, who has also decided not to participate in this year’s derby.
Right behind them is Los Angeles Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani, who hit one into the catwalk at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, for his 24th home run on Friday. A week earlier, Ohtani became the first player to commit to the upcoming Home Run Derby at Coors Field in Denver.
“Since I was a kid, that was on my bucket list,” Tatis said of his three-homer game, the 12th in Padres history. “Gladly today, we did that.”
THREE HOME RUNS TONIGHT FOR FERNANDO TATIS JR. 😱
He’s now tied for the most home runs this season with 25 😳
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 26, 2021
Tatis hit all three of his home runs in the first four innings, becoming the first Padres player ever to do so. In the bottom of the first, the 22-year-old shortstop turned on a 1-1 changeup near the middle of the plate from D-backs starter Corbin Martin and hit it 400 feet to left-center field. In the second, Tatis reached for a 2-2 curveball on the outside corner from Riley Smith and pulled it 373 feet to nearly the exact same spot. And in the fourth, Smith started with a sinker and Tatis stayed back to hit it out 415 feet just to the right of center field.
Tatis posed for a moment on his backswing, then casually flipped his bat in the direction of the Padres’ dugout before beginning his trot around the bases. Padres manager Jayce Tingler called it his most impressive home run of the night.
“When he’s under control, when he’s just staying within himself, he really lets his talent play,” Tingler said. “You look up at the three homers tonight, but they’re just balanced swings. He’s just taking nice easy swings, he’s in great position, he’s not out of control by any means, he’s not trying to generate power, and when he can get barrel to it with that good balance that he has, the ball can just explode off his bat.”
Tatis has reached 25 home runs in only 59 games this season, becoming the fastest player ever to reach that mark at age 22 or younger. He also became the youngest Padres player ever to amass a three-homer game, surpassing teammate Trent Grisham, who did it as a 23-year-old last season. Tatis is the fourth-youngest player with a three-homer game over the past 50 seasons. The only ones who did so at a younger age were Corey Seager, Yordan Alvarez and Guerrero, who belted three home runs on April 27.
“You’d think it would surprise you,” Padres starter Chris Paddack said of Tatis’ exploits, “but at this point it’s expected.”
Tatis got two chances for a four-homer game but couldn’t capitalize against D-backs right-hander Matt Peacock. He got to a 3-0 count in the seventh, then fouled off a sinker and lined another sinker for a base hit to give him 13 total bases, tying a Padres single-game record. In the eighth, Tatis grounded out on another sinker.
“I think I put two good swings on the ball, it didn’t go out, it’s OK,” Tatis said. “I already have three, I can’t get mad at that.”
Tatis told reporters before the game that he would be skipping the Home Run Derby on July 12 largely because he didn’t want to risk further injury to his tender left shoulder, which has continually given him problems since spring training. Tatis, who estimated that the shoulder is at 75%, suffered a subluxation in early April and exited a game last Saturday after a diving attempt caused some soreness in the area.
Tingler called Tatis opting out of the Home Run Derby “a pretty mature decision.”
“I’m 22,” said Tatis, who is slashing .293/.373/.702 and also has 15 stolen bases. “I feel like there’s going to be more chances for me to go to the Home Run Derby. When I go over there, I want to put on a pretty good show.”