Mud Hens' Huffman wins Triple-A Derby

2009 champion picks up second belt at former friendly confines

Former heavyweight champion James Buster Douglas presents two-time Derby winner Chad Huffman with the belt. (Cathryn Wood)

By Vincent Lara-Cinisomo / MiLB.com | July 9, 2018 11:53 PM

For Chad Huffman, his second Triple-A Home Run Derby title seemed more special than his first.

The veteran Minor League slugger, now playing for Toledo, blasted 10 balls out of Columbus' Huntington Park in the championship round Monday to defeat fellow International League representatives Carlos Franco of the Clippers and Lehigh Valley's Joey Meneses for the Derby belt.

Huffman, 33, spent the 2011-12 seasons with Columbus, hitting 19 homers in his time in the organization.

Video: Huffman of Toledo wins the Triple-A Home Run Derby

"Oh, it's great. I played two years here, won a championship here. The fans here in Columbus are awesome. [Clippers president and general manager] Ken Schnacke is great, and this is for Matt Pruzinsky," Huffman said, referencing the longtime Columbus clubhouse manager, who died in December of a heart attack at just 32 years old.

"He was just a great guy who you couldn't wait to get to the clubhouse for," he added.

Huffman, who has had 32 big league at-bats after being drafted in the second round in 2010 by the Padres, won his first Triple-A Home Run Derby in 2009 as a member of the Portland Beavers. But he only had seven long balls for the Mud Hens coming into the break.

"I was pleasantly surprised I got the call," he said about being asked to compete in the Derby. "I was hoping for it, because of the ballpark, but also because it's fun."

Video: Carlos Franco at the Triple-A Home Run Derby

Huffman got off to a slow start but hit more than that -- nine -- in the first round, placing him one behind Meneses and tied with hometown hero Franco. None of the three Pacific Coast League competitors -- Fresno's AJ Reed (zero), Las Vegas' Zach Borenstein (eight homers) or Patrick Wisdom (eight points) of Memphis -- launched enough out of the park to reach the second round.

After rallying past Borenstein in his first round, the right-handed hitter also began the championship round slowly. But he found a groove and started launching balls far over the wall in left. He continued to drive them out, even after he was assured the victory.

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Huffman's approach to the contest was simple.

"It's just a different format," he said. "You try to enjoy it and hit it as hard as you can.

"Obviously [during a game] they're not going to throw you a belt-high fastball middle in -- I wish they did," he added with a laugh.

Huffman, who has had big league stints with the Yankees and Cardinals, said love of the game is still the main reason he plays despite getting only brief shots in the Show.

Video: Joey Meneses at the Triple-A Home Run Derby

"I think there are two reasons for me," he said. "It's the team atmosphere, being around a team of 25 guys, collectively trying to win, and the competition. That's something that's hard to match [outside baseball. I love to compete."

Schnacke, who has been with the Columbus franchise for four decades, was inducted into the International League Hall of Fame before the Derby.

Vince Lara-Cinisomo is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @vincelara. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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