Quite a hit
Harry & David Field has never been home-run friendly, but the Medford Rogues' home ballpark was definitely challenged by the top fence-clearers the Great West League has to offer Monday night.
With a steady breeze blowing in from left field for the marquee event on Day 1 of the inaugural GWL All-Star festivities, Marysville Gold Sox first baseman Dalton DeVries surged past Portland Pickles outfielder Matt Hardy with four dingers in the final round for the Home Run Derby title.
“It feels great just to be a part of this,” DeVries said after a post-victory ice bath from his Marysville teammates. “To have the opportunity to even come out here is just a huge blessing. I can’t ask for much more.”
Hardy actually had the most home runs in each of the first two rounds, posting two homers in the first round and four in the second round, but he couldn’t manufacture the same magic after opting to go second in the final round against DeVries. Hardy, a 6-foot-6, 195-pound UC Riverside product, had two homers in the final round and still finished with the most overall home runs with eight.
“I got to choose in the third round whether I wanted to go first or second and, looking back, I think I should have gone first,” said Hardy. “But I chose what I did and it ended up how it did. I’m just as happy, though, it was a really fun time.”
Prior to having the top collegiate wood-bat players take the field, the Rogues played host to a Little League Skills Challenge and an American Legion Home Run Derby. In and around Harry & David Field there were also more than a dozen vendors set up promoting the area and their products in a Fan Fest.
“I thought it was a really great start to the All-Star festivities,” said Carolyn Birch, acting general manager of the host Medford Rogues. “I think fans got a really good preview as to the talent that they’re going to see tomorrow and what to expect with some high-caliber baseball.”
“It was exciting to see the Little League Skills Challenge into the Home Run Derby,” added Birch. "It gave us a great preview into some of the upcoming talent that’s going to feed into the Rogues and other teams in the Great West League.”
The Great West League All-Star Game will be at 7:05 tonight at Harry & David Field, with the North squad comprised of players from first-place Medford, Portland and Chico and the South team made up of players from Marysville, Lodi and Sacramento.
On Monday, early results favored the H&D ballpark itself as one after another Home Run Derby participant failed to clear the fence in 10 attempts. Lodi infielder Bo McClintock finally broke the string with a first-round home run, gaining rousing applause from the players lining the first- and third-base lines as well as those in attendance for the derby. McClintock actually tipped his cap and mocked walking off as he was jokingly declared the winner following four previous hitters going homerless.
Things heated up from there, however, as DeVries hit one home run, Hardy hit two and there was one apiece from Chico’s Keaton Kringlen and Sacramento’s Raul Ortiz to set the five-player field for the second round.
“It’s a pretty windy day so it was a little nerve-racking,” said Hardy. “But just like (batting practice), if you just try to go out there and put the bat on the ball and square it up, good things will happen. That was pretty much my goal today.”
The right-handed hitting Hardy put on a show in the second round, sending one of his four homers just to the right side of the 407-foot marker on the foul pole in left-center field.
DeVries, a 6-foot, 205-pound Abilene Christian product, similarly began to heat up with two hard-hit shots over the right-field fence in the second round, and past experience in Medford sent him confidently into the final round as a left-handed hitter.
“We’ve played here a few times and I knew going into it the wind was going to come into effect,” said DeVries. “For right-handed hitters it’s extremely tough, but my opponent there at the end (Hardy) knew how to hit it over the wind it seemed like. It just was a matter of who had the longest endurance and could get through that last couple of outs. I came out on top but it could have easily been him ... but I’m happy with how it worked.”
DeVries coolly ripped four baseballs over the right-field fence to set the standard in the championship round.
“I was a little bit nervous at first but then you kind of start settling in and know how to deal with it,” said DeVries. “You start getting used to your swings and everything just starts clicking and you just have fun out there, that’s what it all comes down to in the end.”
And in the end, that’s all that mattered to Hardy as well. His previous towering shots turned to line drives down the third-base line in the final round, leaving Hardy to settle for second but still with a smile on his face.
“I’m really blessed to be here and I’m very thankful,” said Hardy. “I’m really happy to be around all the guys and share this moment with everyone.”
“It’s kind of funny,” he added, “all the guys were saying a lefty is going to take it today. Sure enough he did, but to just come out here and have fun was good enough for me. I had a really good time and now I’m ready to watch the All-Star Game.”
GWL Home Run Derby
FIRST ROUND: Matt Hardy 2, Bo McClintock 1, Dalton DeVries 1, Keaton Kringlen 1, Raul Ortiz 1, Austin Call 0, Zander Clarke 0, Tyler Kaim 0, Josh Falco 0, Johnny DeLaCruz 0, Nate Verlin 0, Connor Lowrie 0.
SECOND ROUND: Matt Hardy 4, Dalton DeVries 2, Bo McClintock 1, Keaton Kringlen 0, Raul Ortiz 0.
FINALS: Dalton DeVries 4, Matt Hardy 2.
American Legion HR Derby
1, Sean Bartlett, Crater; 2, Brendan Kerrigan, Crater; T3, Jake Ireland, Crater, and Steven Ledendecker, South Medford.
Little League Skills Challenge
AGE 7-8: 1, Sean McFall, 848; 2, Brady Patterson, 691; 3, Ryan McFall, 539.
AGE 9-10: 1, Owen Jennings, 854; 2, Frankie Rutigliano, 678; 3, Gracelynn Aldrich, 645.
AGE 11-12: 1, Cayden Aldrich, 1,096; 2, Ethan Herlmann, 922; 3, Marty VonDoloski, 888.
AGE 13-14: 1, Leif Graves, 963; 2, Dylan Alvarez, 659.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry