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Beavers' Huffman blasts way to Derby title07/14/2009 1:45 AM ET
By Jared Ravich / MLB.com
PORTLAND, Ore. -- It was a big night for hometown heroes at Portland's PGE Park, where the Beavers' own Chad Huffman took the trophy -- as well as $1,000 and a brand new laptop -- at the 2009 American Family Insurance Triple-A All-Star Home Run Derby.
He outlasted Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's Shelley Duncan of the International League with a total of 15 homers.
"It was great to have the fans behind me, helping me get through it," the outfielder said. "It's not a distance game, it's a numbers game. I was just trying to get there and put good wood on it. It will take care of itself."
Duncan, who came into the competition with 21 regular-season homers to lead all competitors, squeezed into the second round with five and added another four before slugging just one in the final frame.
"I feel great," Duncan said. "I'm happy it was fun out there."
Duncan was greeted at the plate with a smattering of boos at the mention of the Yankees, clearly not a popular franchise in the Portland area.
"I did notice that," Duncan said with a smile. "It's kind of funny, too, because it's the complete opposite on the East Coast. Where we play and every city we go to there's Yankee fans everywhere. To tell you the truth, it's kind of neat to have a little change. It was fun to hear boos. It really was."
The International League outslugged the Pacific Coast League, 27-24, though after qualifying for the finals with his 10th homer -- third of the second round -- Huffman declined to continue and rested, not knowing if he'd be facing Duncan or local prep star Kevin Taylor of Sunset High School, who put on a clinic from the first pitch of the night.
"It was impressive," Huffman said. "I was very impressed with the high school kid. We were absolutely nervous. We were all talking about it. We can't get blanked by a high school kid. We'll all be embarrassed."
Duncan was thinking along similar lines.
"Let's just go inside," he said. "Throw in the towel."
The left-handed shortstop belted eight homers with his aluminum bat in the opening round, including a 432-foot blast that reached the balcony of the Multnomah Athletic Club ("The Mac") in right field, winning a free slider (small burger) from The Agency, a local sports lounge, for every one of the 9,275 fans in attendance.
"I didn't know I could do that," Taylor said.
Neither did Huffman.
"I was here for all the tryouts and those kids weren't even close," Huffman said. "This kid comes up and hits it off the balcony up there. Unbelievable. He won everybody free sliders, right?"
Despite a couple close foul balls, Taylor was unable to hit one out in the second round. His eight homers in the first round might have worked against him because he led off the competition and, as first-round leader, hit last in the second round. But even though he cooled off -- and so did the air at PGE Park -- there were no excuses from Taylor, who begins his college career at Western Nevada this fall.
"I don't want to blame it on that," he said. "I just feel like I didn't get into a rhythm the second round. You want to swing as hard as you can, but you have to stay within yourself.
"I heard all my friends out there. I felt it was really supportive."
Huffman turned in the best pro performance of the first round with seven longballs, despite a few brushback pitches from his pitcher, which prompted Round Rock's Yorman Bazardo to rile the crowd by running a batting helmet out to home plate. Pacific Coast League skipper Randy Ready followed with a pitching change, which seemed to help Huffman, who responded with his longest blast of the round, a 389-foot shot off a bus parked outside the stadium in left field. As it turned out, Huffman's original pitcher ended up in the trainer's room with a torn labrum.
Salt Lake's Terry Evans advanced to the second round with five home runs, but only connected for one more. Lehigh Valley's Andy Tracy was the third player to rack up five home runs in the first round, but his 15 regular-season homers were not enough to overcome the tiebreaker against Duncan's 21 and Evans' 17, so he did not advance.
In other first-round action, Rochester's Justin Huber slugged four home runs, including a 438-foot blast -- the longest of the night -- that was the first to reach Portland's Southwest 18th Avenue beyond the left-field wall.
Nashville's Brenden Katin came into the Derby leading the PCL participants with 19 homers on the season, but only sent three balls out and did not advance to the second round. Hillsboro High School's Sid Jensen had a few solid line drives, but ultimately none left the park.
In the end, Huffman seemed happiest about the beautiful trophy, sculpted from walnut and oak by local artist Toby Johnson.
"Very talented," Huffman said. "I think he did it with a chainsaw too."
Huffman demonstrated quite a bit of talent himself. He did it with a bat.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.