CLEVELAND — There were a lot of homers Monday night at Progressive Field. And not just the ones soaring out of the ballpark.
The hometown crowd favorite at the start of the Home Run Derby was Cleveland Indians slugger Carlos Santana.
Many fans were sporting the first baseman's No. 41 jersey in hopes his 19 home runs so far this season would be enough to spark his swing to make it to the later rounds of the competition.
“There’s a lot of people here supporting him,” Paul Kirk, a 20-year-old fan from Newark, said.
It doesn’t hurt that Santana’s time with the Indians began in 2010, returning to Cleveland this season after a year in Philadelphia.
Kirk, who wore a white Santana jersey that was a gift years ago, said he wasn’t nervous for the slugger to perform in front of his hometown crowd.
“I think he’ll be able to put on a show,” he said.
Joe Reho, 17, of Copley, said he expected the home turf to give Santana a lift.
“He’ll feel right where he needs to hit the ball,” Reho said.
The cheers from the crowd for Santana and jeers for his first-round competitor Pete Alonso of the Mets were not enough.
Alonso's 14 home runs bested Santana's tally by one dinger.
Also cheering on Santana from the stands was his teammate Carlos Carrasco, who announced this week he is battling leukemia. Carrasco, who was wearing a jersey with all four of the Tribe All-Stars' names on the back, led the crowd in a standing ovation for Santana before his at-bat.
Richie Russell, a 26-year-old Indians season ticket holder from Painesville, said he was already excited about the derby before the roster was even announced.
“It just adds to it that Carlos is going to be in it,” he said.
Although he too was sporting a Santana jersey, Duncan Sanders, 8, of New Philadelphia, was not after a home run ball, but more elusive prey.
A self-described mascot nut, Duncan was attempting to have his picture taken with as many furry oversized critters wandering around the ballpark as possible.
Fredbird of the St. Louis Cardinals. Check.
Paws of the Detroit Tigers. Check.
The Swinging Friar of the San Diego Padres. Check.
The real souvenir was the picture taken with Dinger of the Colorado Rockies.
Duncan said he's been a fan of the Rockies ever since they signed hometown hero Logan Cozart to a minor-league contract.
"I found my favorite," he said.
Ryan Boydston of Fairfield certainly looked like a mascot with his obnoxiously oversized mitt.
The baseball super fan had a seat in the second row of the bleachers and hoped to snag a ball.
He said he purchased the huge mitt online from a company that makes them for team mascots.
"It's kind of hard to clamp down, so we'll see," he said. "If one comes near me I'm catching it."
Joining him in the bleachers was one of the Tribe's biggest and most recognizable fans, center field drummer John Adams, who had an admittedly different role for the derby.
"I'm more of a spectator today," he said.
He would of course drum in support of Santana, he said. And to do that, he had to do something he'd never done before — drum in support of the pitcher as well.
"An absolute first. How do you like that?" he said.
Evan Klotzman brought his 7- and 9-year-old sons, Nathan and Jonah, along with his own father, Kerry Klotzman. They were crossing their fingers for a Santana win Monday and are holding out hope for an MVP trophy for Francisco Lindor on Tuesday.
Regardless of the outcome of either, "It's something we'll remember forever," Evan Klotzman said.
The same can be said for a group of Little Leaguers from Tallmadge who were invited to attend the Home Run Derby by Lindor, who is the All-Star Game's ambassador.
The youngsters even got to take a picture on the field with the Indians short stop.
"They are excited to be here for sure," said Andy Zraik, who coaches in Tallmadge.
Contact reporter Jennifer Pignolet at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 330-996-3216 or on Twitter @JenPignolet. Craig Webb can be reached at email@example.com.