It the early years of the Dayton Dragons, the team had two players who fit this description perfectly. The Dragons record book tells you they are two of the most prolific home run hitters in franchise history, and fans who saw them play at Fifth Third Field still remember the titanic blasts they sent skyward.
Neither player's name is listed among the 57 former Dragons to reach the major leagues, but both were major contributors to Dragons playoff clubs. They are first baseman Samone Peters and right fielder Chris Williamson.
"Samone Peters probably hit the ball farther than any player ever to play for the Dragons," says Marc Katz, who covered the team for the Dayton Daily News from 2000-'09. "He hit one off the top of the Dragon head above the video board. We measured it and it was more than 80 feet high. Donnie Scott (Dragons manager at the time) told Jim Bowden (Cincinnati Reds general manager at the time) that this guy was like Mark McGwire."
Peters stood 6"7" and weighed 235 lbs. In his only season with the Dragons in 2001, he belted 28 home runs to set a franchise single-season record that still stands. But his batting average was only .206, and he struck out 158 times in 452 at-bats. That Dragons team won the Eastern Division first half title and swept Lansing in the first round of the playoffs before losing in the Division Championship Series. Four players hit at least 20 home runs, but Peters led the way and played in the Midwest League All-Star Game.
His most famous moment with the Dragons came on June 10, 2001, when he drilled a walk-off grand slam homer to beat Beloit at Fifth Third Field. WHIO Radio's Larry Hansgen wrote that "every at-bat for Samone was a must-see event. It was all or nothing, home run or strikeout."
Peters spent just one more season in the Reds organization after his year in Dayton. In 2002, he batted .198 with Stockton in the California League, belting 17 homers in just 279 at-bats, but striking out 106 times as his career in affiliated professional baseball came to an end. He played another four seasons of independent professional baseball in four different leagues, but his last season was 2006. He hit 146 home runs in nine professional seasons, but never played higher than the Single-A level.
Chris Williamson, at 6'5", 220 lbs., came straight to the Dragons out of McNeese State University in 2000 and then played briefly for the Dragons in 2001. In 2002, he slammed 22 homers for the Dragons in just 99 games. He batted .240 and struck out 118 times in 333 at-bats, but he was a big cog in a Dragons team that put together a 13-game winning streak to set a club record that still stands. Williamson hit four homers during the winning streak and, like many power hitters, saw his homers come in bunches. In July of that season, he homered in three straight games and two other times, he hit home runs in back-to-back games. He hit five homers during a 10-game stretch in August as the club reached the playoffs.
"Williamson was the first guy who came straight to the Dragons out of the draft," remembers Katz. "For a while I thought, this guy has all this power, he has a chance if he can learn to hit, but he never got it."
Like Samone Peters, Williamson would play only one more season in the Reds organization after leaving the Dragons. In 2003, he hit just .197 at the advanced Single-A level and was released. He played 16 games in independent ball in 2004 and retired. Williamson is still the Dragons all-time career home run leader with 30. Today, he is a coach with the Houston Hurricanes, a company that assists high school prospects in improving their baseball skills and obtaining college scholarship opportunities.
Chris Williamson and Samone Peters never reached the big leagues, but did make an impression in Dayton. Peters hit more home runs in a season than any Dragons player ever has, and Williamson hit more career homers with the Dragons than any player to wear the black and green.
"The scouts came out to watch batting practice, and it was like watching Barry Bonds," says Katz.
Next up: The sixth Dragon to reach the majors, shortstop Ray Olmedo.