When Darren Holmes represents the Colorado Rockies on the mound on Monday, fans of the Mile High club should hope he gets shelled. Holmes, the Rockies’ bullpen coach, will be pitching to Colorado center fielder Charlie Blackmon in the 32nd MLB Home Run Derby.
Blackmon’s already hit 20 homers this year. Tonight, he could become the first Rockies’ player to ever win the Home Run Derby. We caught up with Holmes, a former major league pitcher and World Series champion, to see how he’s coping with the pressure of throwing in Monday’s Derby.
5280 Magazine: If tonight goes well, what are the odds we see you become a career Home Run Derby pitcher?
Darren Holmes: [Laughs] I don’t know about that. But it’s something I’m fired up about, and I’m looking forward to being there with Chuck. It’s a great honor when you throw batting practice for someone and they want to take you to the biggest stage in baseball to have you throw to ’em.
What was your reaction when Blackmon asked you to throw for him at the Home Run Derby?
It was funny. When you’re a player, you want to make the All-Star team. I never made the All-Star team as a player, so I was very excited for the opportunity to go and see what an All-Star weekend looks like.
Even though you’ll be pitching in a contest where the goal is to give up as many home runs as possible?
I mean obviously it’s not pitching in the real game, but you’re out in front of 50,000 people on a big stage. That’s kind of what I did for 13 years in the big leagues, and I think it’ll be fun to get the juices flowing again.
Thirteen years is a solid career. How long have you thrown batting practice for Blackmon?
I’ve been throwing to Chuck for about three years. I throw about 140 games each year, and about 150–200 pitches each game. So I know where he likes the ball to be and what speed he likes. Right now I’m just working on my rhythm and making sure I’m hitting the right spot.
So you and Blackmon have pretty good chemistry.
I’ve got a great relationship with Charlie. We got off to a great start, actually. I knew Charlie a little bit before I even met him because my daughter—a baseball fanatic—came to me and she said, “Dad, you have to follow this guy called @Chuck_Nazty. He’s a player with the Rockies. He’s cool.”
And…you did that?
Well, yeah, I started following him on Twitter.
I mean, when she first said “@Chuck_Nazty” I thought, “Oh, man.” But when you get to know him, the nasty part is more about his appearance than anything else. He’s got the big beard and the long hair, but he’s one of the kindest, most respectful people in the game.
What has you most excited about being a part of the Home Run Derby?
I have a son who plays college ball and is here with me right now. The league pays for accommodations for two, so he’s going to go out there with me and will be a part of it. It’s really exciting for me to have him here. I see these guys all the time, so when I see Bryce Harper [of the Washington Nationals], he’s another good ball player. When my son sees Bryce Harper, it’s like, “Oh my God.” For him to get to go with me and spend a couple of days around the best players in the world is pretty special.
To watch: The Home Run Derby will begin at 6 p.m. MT on ESPN and can be streamed via the WatchESPN app.