Dodgers' Joc Pederson, HR derby runner-up: 'Pretty surreal'

In the championship round of the home run derby, even as those precious seconds ticked off the clock, Joc Pederson took a couple moments to catch his breath and take in the scene.

This was the only game in town, and in all of Major League Baseball. The eyes of his fellow All-Stars, and of all the baseball world, were upon him.

"That's what everyone says: slow down and enjoy it," Pederson said. "It's pretty surreal."

Pederson very nearly became the first Dodgers player to win the derby. In the year after Yasiel Puig hit zero home runs, Pederson hit 39. 

He lost to the Cincinnati Reds' Todd Frazier, the hometown hero. Frazier beat Pederson on a bonus-time walk-off, with 15 home runs to Pederson's 14.

The Angels' Albert Pujols, whom Pederson eliminated in the semifinals, said the right man won the derby.

"It couldn't happen to a better person," Pujols said of Frazier. "To do it with the city on his back, that's a lot of pressure."

Pujols also praised Pederson, for not only performing so well as a rookie but for thriving amid the pressure of facing Frazier.

"The city of L.A. should be proud of him," Pujols said of Pederson. "I'm so proud of him. I just became more of a fan of him."

The evening's warmest moment came after Pederson had eliminated Pujols. As the two men exchanged greetings, Pederson's older brother jumped into Pujols' arms, and Pujols grinned for all of Ohio to see.

Champ Pederson has Down syndrome. So does Pujols' daughter. Pujols met Champ Pederson this spring, and sent him an autographed jersey. 

"That just shows what type of man he is," Joc Pederson said. "He's an unbelievable human. 

"It's not necessarily about winning. He's got a warm heart. I tip my cap to him."

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Twitter: @BillShaikin

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