SALT LAKE CITY -- With seven home runs in the final round and 16 total, Gwinnett outfielder Stefan Gartrell slugged his way to victory at the 2011 Triple-A Home Run Derby on Monday night.
The Braves outfield prospect didn't expect to even reach the finals, but the most unexpected part of Gartrell's evening at the plate turned out to be his competition, 17-year-old high school junior Kayden Porter.
"A kid that big, that strong with a swing like that," said Gartrell. "I was big in high school, but I wasn't like that."
Representing the Pacific Coast League and Spanish Fork High School, Porter and his aluminum bat put on a show with 14 home runs at the Bees' Spring Mobile Park. He launched one ball clear over the batter's eye in dead center, a shot estimated at 545 feet.
"That could've been the furthest ball I ever hit," said the 6-foot-5, 250-pound pitcher and first baseman.
"First of all, no wind anymore," said Gartrell. "It was all him. Perfect timing, perfect swing. I think he should slow that swing down and analyze it, because that was a perfect swing. It was very impressive and I'm proud of him. I just met the kid and I'm already proud of him."
Gartrell had quite a bit to be proud of after turning in a great performance, storming back to win the $500 prize after hitting the fewest homers (three) of all participants who qualified for the second round.
"At first I was like, 'Just have fun and enjoy this.' I'm kind of a goofy guy, anyway. So I was just enjoying it," he said. "But then I was like, 'Hey wait a minute, I can win this thing.' And then, every single time [Porter] swung the bat, I thought it was going to be a home run.
"I'd never hit a home run in a home run derby before. When I was able to get over that hump and get past the whole jitters and nervousness and trying to hit home runs, after that I just let my swing take its course. A lot of the balls I was hitting were just line drives. ... A lot of balls [in the International League] don't fly as well as they do here. A lot of those would be doubles. ... I can get used to hitting in this type of park. The ball flies pretty good. I like it."
It was a good night for the Braves and their fans, a few of whom were loud enough for Gartrell to notice. Braves legend and Utah resident Dale Murphy was on hand for the Derby, offering a retro jersey for the home run champ.
"I got the Dale Murphy jersey ... amazing. The fact that he came over to take a picture with me and [teammate Mauro Gomez] because we're in the Braves organization," Gartrell said. "I was star-struck. And then the fact that I got his jersey and he autographed it. ... It's pretty good for somebody who knows the history of baseball, and I've been a huge fan of baseball all my life. So I take pride in that."
Gomez led all sluggers with five home runs in Round 1, but only added a pair in the second frame and did not reach the finals.
Before the game, local favorite Jeff Baisley of the Salt Lake Bees said he wasn't taking Porter for granted.
"Bigger than me. I'm not underestimating anybody," Baisley said.
Baisley also made the second round with four longballs in the first round, but did not add to his total after that. In other Round 1 action, Charlotte's Dayan Viciedo, Iowa's Bryan LaHair and lefty Sam Hall of Bonneville High School smacked one homer apiece.