D'Antona's 'dream season' continues

Upsets Hessman to win Triple-A All-Star Home Run Derby

(Danny Wild/MLB.com)

By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com | July 14, 2008 5:23 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Jamie D'Antona's whirlwind weekend came to a booming close Monday night at Louisville Slugger Field as the Tucson Sidewinders infielder outlasted Toledo Mud Hens slugger Mike Hessman to capture the 2008 Triple-A Home Run Derby.

There were 26 homers hit during the event, with D'Antona accounting for eight of them. His final shot came in the second playoff round, a rising liner that touched down in the left-field bleachers and gave him a 4-3 advantage over Hessman in the finals.

D'Antona earned $1,000 for his effort.

It certainly wasn't a bad weekend for the slugger, who has flirted with hitting .400 for the Sidewinders for much of the first half of the season. D'Antona earned a spot on the U.S. Team at Sunday's All-Star Futures Game as a replacement for Chris Davis, who was promoted to Texas.

D'Antona got the call to participate in the Derby as a replacement when Albuquerque's Dallas McPherson, the Minor League home run leader, withdrew for personal reasons.

"I don't think it was a matter of not getting respect," said D'Antona, who has 15 homers this season. "There are a lot of people who want to play. A lot of things can happen in baseball and I just took advantage of the opportunity. I've been taking advantage of the opportunity all year. It's been a dream season."

D'Antona needed a playoff to get out of the first round, slugging two homers in the extra session to advance ahead of Salt Lake's Matt Brown and Pawtucket's Jeff Bailey. He and Hessman each connected for three homers in the semifinals, ousting Omaha's Jason Smith and Pawtucket's Jon Van Every to set up the dramatic finale, one that D'Antona figured Hessman would win.

Hessman leads the International League in home runs and is 16 shy of 300 for his Minor League career. Yet it was D'Antona, hitting second, who rallied for the victory.

"Of course, we thought Hessman would win," D'Antona said. "He's a monster. He's got the leverage, he's taller than all of us. I thought he would take it without a problem."

That proved not to be the case.

What's he doin' here?: Brown participated in the Home Run Derby even though the Bees had a game against Sacramento on Monday. It seems odd that the PCL would choose to be playing games on the day of the Derby, but it did because of what league vice president of business and operations George King described as a scheduling anomaly.

"We're endeavoring to never have it happen again," King said.

Salt Lake surely would have liked to have Brown, his 18 homers, 59 RBIs and .326 batting average in the lineup Monday, but it was a moot point. Once players were selected for the Derby and accepted the invitation, they were given permission to leave their respective clubs early to get to Louisville on time.

"I heard that it was some kind of mixup with the scheduling. That's all I know," Brown said. "I want to help my team, first and foremost, but it's just one of those things that got screwed up with the schedule. It's kind of weird and I don't know why. It stinks."

History lesson: The IL has won the last two All-Star Games and four of the last five. This is the 11th time the event has been played as a PCL vs. IL affair, with the two squads splitting the previous 10 games. Overall, it is the 21st Triple-A All-Star Game, with the first 10 pitting players from American League affiliates against those from the National League. The AL won four of those games.

The first Triple-A All-Star Game was played in 1988 at Pilot Field in Buffalo, with the AL-based team winning, 2-1. Louisville previously hosted the game in 1991 at Cardinal Stadium.

This and that: The average age of the players on the IL roster is 27.4, with seven players older than 30. That includes the game's "old man," Durham Bulls infielder Chris Richard, who turned 34 last month. The average age of the players on the PCL roster is 27.04, with only four players older than 30. The oldest player on that squad is Nashville Sounds southpaw Lindsay Gulin, who'll turn 32 in November. ... Iowa's Mike Burns celebrated his 30th birthday on Monday. ... Next year's Triple-A All-Star game will be in Portland, Ore. ... King added that the PCL is planning to honor longtime league statistician and historian Bill Weiss in the near future, though he didn't mention what that honor would be.

Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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