Gunnar Henderson watched from afar as Adley Rutschman blasted ball after ball into the sea of fans in Seattle last year. With each rocket, the Orioles catcher put on a show — both for the casual onlooker and for his Orioles teammates.

Henderson hasn’t experienced a feeling such as what Rutschman felt that night last summer in the Home Run Derby. When Henderson asked Rutschman about it, his friend said it “was obviously an unreal experience.”

Watching how much fun Rutschman had in that event planted a seed in Henderson’s mind. He doesn’t know whether it’ll come about — nor does he know how Major League Baseball decides who participates — but if the opportunity arises for Henderson to compete in this year’s Home Run Derby, the shortstop would jump at it.

“I feel like it would be pretty cool to do. Watching it growing up, it’s a pretty cool idea,” Henderson said. “I’d like to think I’d be good at it, but I’d have to work on my BP [batting practice] homers. I can hit them in the game, but I still have to work on my BP homers, I guess. It definitely would be a cool thing to do.”

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For the second straight year, an Orioles player could be headed for the spotlight.

With All-Star voting only recently opening, the 22-year-old has cemented himself as a firm favorite for his first appearance in the showcase. And his 21 homers — the second most in the majors — show a level of power that could translate to one of the most exciting events ahead of the Midsummer Classic.

Henderson has never competed in a formal home run derby, but he used to face Rutschman during batting practice while they were in the minor leagues. Rutschman often won those matchups, Henderson said. The shortstop has a difficult time putting aside his training techniques in any batting practice setting — to forget about his other-way, line-drive approach and instead maximize loft in an all-out power display.

For just a weekend, though, Henderson thinks he can convince himself to put on a show.

There were multiple aspects to Rutschman’s exhibition that made it stand out. For one, the switch-hitter went yard from both sides of the plate. Henderson knows he can’t enthrall a crowd with that sort of aptitude. He’s a lefty only, although he jokingly stepped to the plate as a righty once during his time at the alternate training site in 2020.

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The result? A home run from the right side.

“But I won’t be able to do it on the level that he did,” Henderson said of Rutschman’s switch-hitting prowess on display during last year’s All-Star break, when the catcher slugged 20 homers as a lefty before hitting seven as a righty in the bonus round.

The Seattle Home Run Derby served as a Pacific Northwest homecoming for Rutschman, too. His dad, Randy, pitched to him, and T-Mobile Park was the first major league stadium Rutschman played in, when he won the regional Pitch, Hit & Run competition as an 8-year-old.

“He got to do it with his dad, so that was pretty cool,” Henderson said. “Being able to watch him do his thing up there was pretty sweet. It would definitely be a cool experience.”

Baltimore Orioles shortstop Gunnar Henderson (2) connects with a pitch during game two of a series against the Atlanta Braves at Camden Yards on June 12, 2024. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Still, Henderson isn’t sure he’d ask his dad, Allen, to pitch to him.

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“He hasn’t thrown BP in a while, at least not that I know of,” Henderson said. “And he might break out a few knuckleballs. He always does that when I get him to throw.”

Perhaps his older brother, Jackson — a former player at Auburn — would be an option. Henderson said Jackson throws it “pretty good” when he helps Henderson train in the offseason.

But that decision is way ahead of Henderson. First, he would need to be invited.

And, if he accepts, Henderson will approach it the way he approaches everything in baseball.

“It would be cool to do it,” Henderson said, “but if I do go do it, I’m going to try to win it.”