Refsnyder's blast wins Homer Video MiLBY

Simon's robbery earns Top Play, Earley's mishap cops Best Blooper

No. 6 Yankees prospect Rob Refsnyder's July 4th walk-off was one of 2014's most unforgettable moments. (Ken Inness/MiLB.com)

By Mark Emery / MiLB.com | October 31, 2014 10:00 AM

Eight bloopers, 10 home runs and 12 defensive gems were in the running for 2014 Video MiLBYs.

The fans have had their say, and Rob Refsnyder's walk-off home run on July 4 amassed 72 percent of the votes in the Top Home Run category, Jared Simon's homer-stealing catch received 39 percent of the votes in the Top Play category and Michael Earley's run-in with the bullpen gate after a nifty catchgarnered 35 percent of the votes in the Best Blooper category.

Let's take a closer look at each one of those episodes, shall we?

Top Home Run: Refsnyder sets off fireworks

It's unlikely that a loss by the home team would have ruined the Fourth of July for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre fans who showed up at PNC Field for that evening's game against Buffalo, but a win would have made the holiday just that much better. After all, fireworks are not supposed to follow defeats.

The problem was, the visiting Bisons jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, and while the RailRiders scored a few runs here and there, the home team still trailed, 6-4, heading into the bottom of the ninth inning. All-Star right-hander Steve Delabar was on the mound, and he made quick work of the first two hitters, setting them both down swinging.

But with two outs, Carmen Angelini tripled to right and Jose Pirela was hit by a pitch. That brought up Refsnyder, who had less than a month of Triple-A experience under his belt. The Yankees' sixth-ranked prospect looked at three balls to start his at-bat, then took a called strike. 

Refsnyder sent the next offering arcing high into the Pennsylvania night, depositing it in the bullpen beyond the fence in left-center field for a three-run homer to complete the unlikely comeback for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Holiday aside, fireworks often follow roundtrippers, particularly when they are of the walk-off variety. The combination of circumstances was powerful enough to win the Top Home Run Video MiLBY.

"It's such a wonderful holiday to celebrate ... obviously means a lot to a lot of different people and things like that, including me," the 2012 fifth-round pick said. "Having a moment like that, I think it's cool. A lot of the older guys, their family and kids were there. So it was just a cool, down-to-earth moment, to be able to celebrate with my team, and the holiday."

That game was just the 25th of Refsnyder's Triple-A career, which began June 10 after he batted .342/.385/.548 with 19 doubles, five triples, six homers and 30 RBIs over 60 games at Double-A Trenton. He continued to produce in the International League, ultimately hitting .300/.389/.456 with 19 doubles, one triple, eight homers and 33 RBIs.

"I'm trying to think back for a moment that I had as much fun in as that, and I really can't think of one," the 23-year-old said of the blast. "I was still just trying to get used to the clubhouse, different guys, the Triple-A clubhouse coming from Double-A, so it was awesome. I would be lying if I said I wasn't trying to fit in and work hard to be part of that clubhouse."

It's tough to imagine the University of Arizona product having trouble fitting in with the RailRiders after his holiday heroics. But even if the clutch shot didn't endear Refsnyder to every member of New York's Triple-A affiliate from that moment on, there were already a few friendly faces around the ballclub.

"It was cool, because one of the first guys there was, probably one of my closest friends in the organization, Taylor Dugas. He was one of the first ones to come to home plate and celebrate with me," he said. "I'm sure some of the fans saw my exchange with my third-base coach, Luis Sojo. I've been through a lot with him. So just the whole kind of moment, it was just awesome to be a part of."

From the joy of a come-from-behind walk-off win to the inevitable excitement of Independence Day, all the ingredients to a special night at the ballpark were there for the California native, a fact he was as mindful of as anyone else.

"Baseball, to its core, should be a fun, energetic sport," Refsnyder said, "and that's just what that moment was."

Top Play: Simon stabs would-be homer

In the process of snatching home runs away from befuddled batters, outfielders usually arrive at the wall before the ball, readying themselves to execute perfectly timed jumps. Their next movements are vertical, full of finesse and athleticism -- sometimes the ball is within reach and sometimes it isn't.

Oh, there was athleticism in the grab that Simon pulled off en route to the Top Play Video MiLBY on Aug. 29, but not a whole lot in the way of finesse. His movement was all horizontal. In fact, you could be forgiven for believing the ball had caught him, not the other way around.

As the regular season was reaching its conclusion, the Double-A Tulsa right fielder was taken almost directly backward by an opposite-field drive by Northwest Arkansas' Lane Adams. He streaked toward the wall and did not slow down as he neared it. On the warning track, he extended his arm to make the catch, simultaneously lurching over the fence as the ball found his glove.

Somehow, the Rockies prospect managed to avoid flying over the fence himself, and an instant later, he fired the ball back to first base in an effort to double-off the runner. While there was no twin killing, a robbery had been committed.

"I'd never done it before," Simon said. "It's nice to take away some runs instead of getting some runs sometimes. That was a pretty good highlight."

The 2010 sixth-round pick said Drillers starter Tyler Anderson was awfully appreciative in the dugout afterward. Simon's stellar defense supported an effort by the Texas League Pitcher of the Year that ended with just one hit and one unearned run over six innings. Of course, the outing would have been worse if not for the right fielder's reckless abandon. 

"I was just trying to catch the ball," Simon said. "I wasn't worried about the wall or anything. Just, I don't know, focused on the ball and ended up catching it."

It took the effort of a fighter pilot going full throttle to make the catch, and the 25-year-old never stopped to consider giving anything less than all he's got.

"I didn't really know the wall was that close. ... It's kind of a short porch a little bit out there, so you can get to the wall pretty easily."

The University of Tampa product played 91 games for Tulsa, which held a 2-1 lead in the Texas League Championship Series before falling to the Midland RockHounds. He posted a .222/.299/.382 slash line with 14 doubles, 11 homers and 43 RBIs in the regular season.

"It was kind of an up-and-down year," the Florida native said, "but you learn something every day, every year, so you can't be too disappointed in it."

Especially when the year includes a play as remarkable as the one Simon made in right. Right?

"I just wish I could have doubled the guy off first," he said.

Best Blooper: Earley goes for a ride

When baseball fans think of bloopers, thoroughly unimpressive feats such as grace-lacking wipeouts and not-even-close throws often come to mind. The incident in left field that won Michael Earley the Best Blooper Video MiLBY, however, was anything but unimpressive.

In the Aug. 17 game against Double-A Chattanooga, the Birmingham outfielder raced deep into the left-center gap to go after a sinking line drive. As he approached the warning track, he leaped to snare the would-be hit, coming down an instant later with the ball in his mitt and a load of momentum in his stride.

Earley figured he'd use the rapidly advancing fence to steady himself, but the fence turned out to be the bullpen gate, and it had other ideas. It swung open with the confounded outfielder still attached, taking him on an unwelcome ride that ended with a crash landing -- and the ball still in his mitt.

"It was very surprising," he said with a laugh. "It was probably the last thing I expected to happen."

A hypothesis is all Earley -- who was recently released by the White Sox -- can offer to explain why the ordinarily immobile field boundary gave way, but he knows exactly why he felt the need to rely on it in the first place.

"The story behind it is, actually the day before, I hurt my heel pretty bad," he said. "That day, I begged my manager [Julio Vinas] to let me play because we were in a playoff race. I could run because I could put weight on my toes, but it's when I tried to stop [that I had problems].

"When I made the catch, I tried to slow down. I thought, you know, I'll just kind of jump into the wall. And I did, but I don't think they locked the gate."

When the Barons showed up at Regions Field to play the Lookouts the following day, Earley was greeted by another surprise at what was now the scene of a very peculiar crime.

"One of my teammates, Nestor Molina, made an outline of my body with tape on the fence and put my number in the middle of it," he said.

The 2010 29th-round pick spent all of 2014 with Birmingham in the Southern League, mainly appearing in the corner outfield positions over 94 games. In his fifth professional season, the 26-year-old batted .251/.287/.333 with 16 doubles, two triples, three home runs and 39 RBIs.

The fact that he was even in a position to make the play that would become a Top 10 highlight on SportsCenter is a testament to how far this former college infielder -- who played at Indiana University and the University of Cincinnati -- has come as an outfielder. He gave credit to his development over the years to three coaches: Daryl Boston, Gary Ward and Doug Sisson.

"Those guys," Earley said, "if it wasn't for them, I don't know if I'd be able to play the outfield. Coming in, I was just some guy who was just an athlete who was a little raw at it, but they've helped shape me into being able to go out and make plays."

As the Indiana native demonstrated on that Sunday, he doesn't just go out and make plays -- he sees them through to the very end, no matter what that end might hold.

"It was like a good play and a blooper at the same time," Earley said with another chuckle. "It wasn't too negative. I've seen a lot worse."

Mark Emery is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Emery. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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