|© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.|
Triple-A All-Stars ready for Derby07/12/2009 5:36 PM ET
By Jared Ravich / MLB.com
PORTLAND, Ore. -- After successfully kicking off the 2009 All-Star celebrations with a FanFest at PGE Park on Saturday, the City of Portland is ready for the Triple-A All-Stars to flex their muscles Monday in the Home Run Derby.
Portland natives and former Major Leaguers Dale Murphy, Scott Brosius and Johnny Pesky joined other local baseball heros for a roundtable discussion and autograph session, while fans were treated to nearly full access to the stadium, including the players' clubhouse.
Murphy, a seven-time National League All-Star who led the league in home runs twice (1984 and 1985), participated in the first-ever Major League All-Star Home Run Derby in Minneapolis in 1985. His advice for Monday's sluggers: Rest.
"You've got to take your time. You've got to rest. Because what happens is you think you can't get tired, but that rapid fire hitting... Yeah, step out. Take a rest."
Shelley Duncan of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees leads the way for the International League and would appear to be the favorite heading into the competition. The 30-year-old outfielder leads all participants with 21 roundtrippers this season and 169 in his professional career (including eight in the Major Leagues).
Duncan, whose father is St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach (and former catcher) Dave Duncan, knows what big home runs look like. Shelley was in the Cardinals dugout in September 1998 when Mark McGwire slugged his record-tying 61st home run.
But big home run hitters don't always turn in big performances in the derby. As a member of the New York Yankees, Brosius slugged a pair of homers in Game 3 of the 1998 World Series, including one off current Major League All-Star Trevor Hoffman. Brosius doesn't envy Monday's competitors in the Derby, though.
"They're harder than it looks. For me, it's funny because as a player I really wasn't a home run hitter. I wouldn't hit 30 or 40 a year. I was kind of a line drive hitter and when they carried, they carried. So I'd be in this Home Run Derby, and I'd try to swing hard and they'd be line drives. So I'd try to dip and get it in the air and I couldn't do it. It's a lot harder than it looks.
"As I was taught, sometimes the home runs happen when you're not trying to do them. That's certainly the case for me."
Duncan has three multi-homer games this season, a feat matched by the Pacific Coast League's top contender, Brendan Katin. The 26-year-old outfielder with the Nashville Sounds and three-time Triple-A All-Star has 19 homers on the season and 88 in his pro career.
Also representing the PCL are Portland's own Chad Huffman and Salt Lake's Terry Evans. Huffman, 24, has 12 homers on the season (five at PGE Park) and 52 in his career. Evans, 27, has 17 homers this season and 111 in his career, including one for the Bees' parent Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Joining Duncan for the IL are Lehigh Valley's Andy Tracy and Rochester's Justin Huber. At 35, Tracy is the eldest of eight participants in the event, somewhat ironic because he is younger than all seven of his siblings. The only lefty All-Star in this year's Derby, Tracy has been slugging home runs his entire life, capturing and holding the record for dingers (45) at his alma mater, Bowling Green University. In his pro career, Tracy has belted 260 homers, including 15 this season and 13 in the big leagues. With the right-field wall a little further away (321 feet vs. left field's 319), Tracy might be at the slightest of disadvantages to the right-handed batters gunning for Portland's Southwest 18th Ave.
No matter how far he hits the ball, Huber wins hands down for furthest distance to get to the Triple-A All-Star Game. Hailing from Emerald, Australia, the 27-year-old infielder will still be in familiar territory Monday, as Huber donned a Portland uniform in 2008. This season, Huber has slugged 12 of his 124 career home runs (including two in the Majors).
Also participating in the event will be local prep sluggers Sid Jensen of Hillsboro High School and Kevin Taylor of Sunset High School. If it will be a daunting task to compete against the pros, this pair of young hitters can look to Pesky for inspiration. Pesky, who hit a grand total of 17 home runs in the Majors, once found himself in a derby against teammate Ted Williams, who ended his Major League career with 521 home runs.
"I didn't last very long. The fences were too far. We had Williams and [Vern] Stephens and [Bobby] Doerr and those guys who were home run hitters," said Pesky. "I could hear the fans say 'Never mind the wall, Johnny, just hit a line drive.' So, I tried to hit line drives.
"Just get a good ball to hit and hit the ball sharply."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.