MINNEAPOLIS -- Hours after jokingly declaring himself "The People's Champ" for the Gillette Home Run Derby, Josh Donaldson came the closest to knocking out the defending champ.

Yoenis Cespedes went on to repeat his title on Monday night, but he had to survive a first-round swing-off with his Oakland A's teammate to do it.

"I told him good luck," Donaldson said. "He didn't really need it, I guess, because he made the first two pitches go out pretty quick. But I'm happy for him. He really enjoys this stuff. I do, too, but he just knows how to do it."

Donaldson hit only one out in the swing-off. Considering it was a 427-foot upper-deck shot, he had no reason to feel outclassed.

"I felt like after I sat down the first round, I wish I could keep going back out there," he said, "because I had just started getting in my comfort zone. Then to get a chance to go in the swing-off, 1-for-3, that's a pretty good day at the park."

While more than a few All-Star sluggers this year were hesitant to take part, Donaldson welcomed the opportunity in his first All-Star Game. However, it took him a few swings to find the form that powered 20 home runs by the All-Star break.

His pitcher, A's bullpen coach Darren Bush, managed him on his way up the A's farm system, from Class A Stockton in 2008 to Double-A Midland the next year, then later at Triple-A Sacramento. Together, they worked through some early nerves.

Donaldson struggled with his timing his first few swings, fouling back a few pitches. His fourth ball in play fell just shy of the left-field warning track, giving him four outs without a home run.

"It's a little bit different format this year with the seven outs," Donaldson said. "It's one of those things where you've got to get going early. If you don't, it goes by quick."

After a brief break and a chug of Gatorade delivered by the Tigers' Victor Martinez's son, Victor Jose, Donaldson lofted a 388-foot drive just over the left-field fence, dropping a few rows into the seats. Back-to-back foul balls, however, put him on the brink of elimination.

With the charity FlexBall in play, Donaldson delivered two more drives. One landed in the left-field bullpen for a 406-foot shot. The next stayed barely fair down the left-field line, but landed in the second deck near the concourse, estimated at 344 feet.

"Once you get the first one out of the way, it kind of loosens you up a little bit," he said.

That briefly put Donaldson in position to advance until Cespedes matched him. Donaldson made his lone swing-off homer a big one, but didn't have enough.

"That kind of gave me a little satisfaction, that I at least hit that one ball," Donaldson said.

He ended up being the upstart who nearly upset the favorite who then went on to win it all. He had no regrets.

"It was awesome, from [Bush] throwing me BP in Stockton and Midland and Sacramento to come out here on the big stage," Donaldson said. "It was a great experience for both of us, and I really enjoyed it."

2014 Home Run Derby results
AL Rd. 1 Rd. 2 Rd. 3 Final Rd. 3 Rd. 2 Rd. 1 NL
Brian Dozier 2       1 6 2 Todd Frazier
Jose Bautista 10 Bye 4 Cespedes 9   2 4 Troy Tulowitzki
Adam Jones 4 3   Frazier 1     0 Yasiel Puig
Josh Donaldson 3       0 Bye 6 Giancarlo Stanton
Yoenis Cespedes 3 9 7       2 Justin Morneau
Round 1 tiebreakers: Cespedes 2, Donaldson 1; Frazier 1, Morneau 0