COLUMBIA, SC - Eight South Atlantic League All Stars and six high schoolers (three local and three regional) are scheduled to participate in the Home Run Derby on June 19. The Derby will take place immediately following the conclusion of the Celebrities vs. Soldiers Softball Game, which starts at 6:15 p.m. at Spirit Communications Park. Gates will open at 5:00 p.m.
Each player will get ten outs per round to hit out as many home runs as they can. After their ten outs, the participants have one last "Glow Ball" - worth three bonus points. There will be two overall Home Run Derby winners: one from the South Atlantic League participants, and one from the high school participants.
Columbia's Michael Paez and Dash Winningham , Rome's Brett Cumberland and Asheville's Vince Fernandez will represent the Southern Division. Winningham is tied for third in the league with 10 home runs. The 21-year-old also leads the league with 43 RBIs. The Florida native has four multi-homer games in his young professional career. Winningham was selected in the eighth round by the Mets in 2014. Paez has blasted six homers for the Fireflies this season and is tied for the league lead with 20 doubles. The infielder clubbed 15 home runs in his junior season at Coastal Carolina, which ranked second among the nation's shortstops in 2016. Paez was taken in the fourth round by the Mets last year.
Cumberland leads Rome with nine home runs and has 42 RBIs on the season. The 21-year-old catcher was signed by the Atlanta Braves on June 25, 2016 out of the University of California (Berkeley). He's rated as the 29th best prospect in the Braves organization according to MLB.com. Fernandez has launched 11 homers - tied for second in the league. He ranks third in the league with a .324 batting average.
Seby Zavala (Kannapolis), Daniel Johnson (Hagerstown), Sheldon Neuse (Hagerstown) and Trae Arbet (West Virginia) are the participants for the Northern Division. These four sluggers have combined to hit 37 home runs so far this season.
Johnson leads the league with 13 homers after he had just one in his first professional season in 2016. Hagerstown's outfielder was drafted by the Nationals in the fifth round out of New Mexico State last year, becoming the second-highest pick in the school's history. Neuse also represents the Suns and has six long balls so far this season. The 22-year-old was a second-round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft from the University of Oklahoma.
Zavala is a 23-year-old catcher for the Intimidators and leads his team with 11 home runs. Before getting drafted in 2015, he posted a team-leading 67 RBIs and went deep 14 times in his junior season at San Diego State. Arbet has seven homers for West Virginia this year. The California native was taken in the fifth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013.
Dalton Smith (Pelion), Jordan Holladay (Sumter), and Ward Hacklen (Dutch Fork) are the local high schoolers who will have a crack at competing with the South Atlantic League All Stars. These three all won qualifying rounds, which took place earlier this season at Spirit Communications Park. In addition, there are three regional high schoolers from Greenville, Myrtle Beach and Charleston (Vince Bodison from James Island High School) also involved in the event.
Home Run Derby format:
- Round 1: 8 SAL All-Stars - top 4 advance to semifinal
- Round 2: 6 High Schoolers - top 2 advance to final
- Round 3: 4 SAL All-Stars - top 2 advance to finals
- Round 4 (finals): 2 SAL All-Stars and 2 high schoolers
Following Monday's festivities, the 2017 South Atlantic League All-Star Game - being played at Spirit Communications Park on Tuesday, June 20 - will feature rising stars from around the league, including five Columbia Fireflies players and four members of the coaching staff. All-Star Game Fan Fest will kick-off the Tuesday festivities from 3-6 p.m. This event features autograph sessions from players on both teams, a live band, free inflatables for kids and the opportunity to watch both teams take batting practice. The All-Star Game begins at 7:05 p.m. and will feature the ZOOperstars! and post-game fireworks.
Tickets for the 58th annual South Atlantic League All-Star Game, the Home Run Derby and Celebrities vs. Soldiers Softball Game are on sale now. Visit FirefliesTickets.com, the Spirit Communications Park ticket office or call (803) 726-4487 for more information.
The Fireflies are now offering a Be an All-Star Sweepstakes package for the festivities on June 19 and 20. Fans purchasing a ticket to both the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game are entered to win a package that includes the following: an official 2017 South Atlantic League All-Star Game jersey, on-field access during the Celebrities vs. Soldiers Softball Game and Home Run Derby, three signed baseballs (one by the North All-Stars, one by the South All-Stars and one by the Celebrities), on-field access for batting practice before the All-Star Game, pre-game recognition before the All-Star Game, four Club Lounge passes for the winner and three guests for the All-Star Game and two tickets to the Monday Night Party at Music Farm. Two winners will be chosen. No purchase necessary. Fans can also enter to win by mailing their name, address, phone number, and email address to:
Spirit Communications Park (Attn: Be an All-Star Sweepstakes)
1640 Freed Street
Columbia, SC 29201
About the Columbia Fireflies
The Columbia Fireflies are the South Atlantic League affiliate of the New York Mets. Winners of Ballpark Digest's Best New Branding and Logo Award in 2016, the Fireflies play games across the southeast and mid-Atlantic regions, including against in-state rivals in Charleston and Greenville. The team partnered with the city of Columbia and Hughes Development to construct Spirit Communications Park, a multi-use outdoor sports and entertainment venue at the center of the BullStreet development. The Columbia Fireflies are owned by Hardball Capital, owners of the Fort Wayne TinCaps of the Midwest League and the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern League. For more information, visit ColumbiaFireflies.com, or follow the Fireflies on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
About Spirit Communications Park
Spirit Communications Park, the 2016 Ballpark Digest Ballpark of the Year, is a 365-day per year multi-use sports and entertainment venue located in the heart of downtown Columbia, SC. Spirit Communications Park is the home ballpark for the Columbia Fireflies, the South Atlantic League affiliate of the New York Mets. Designed for baseball, concerts, football, soccer and a host of other activities, the venue seats approximately 9,000 for sporting events and up to 15,000 for major outdoor concerts. With 16 luxury suites and a 7,000 square-foot Club Level Lounge, Spirit Communications Park can also host everything from business meetings to wedding receptions, and everything in between. The venue is open 365 days a year and serves as a public park with the wrap-around concourse representing 1/3 of a mile for walkers and joggers. For more information, visit www.SpiritCommunicationsPark.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.