Legends' O'Hearn claims Derby glory

Royals prospect edges BlueClaws' Hoskins in Sally League event

Ryan O'Hearn is hitting .262 with 16 homers and 40 RBIs this season for Lexington. (Tracy Proffitt/Hickory Crawdads)

By Bob Sutton / Special to MLB.com | June 23, 2015 11:03 PM

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- It probably wasn't a big surprise when the South Atlantic League's leading long ball hitter won the Home Run Derby at the South Atlantic League All-Star Game.

But it was the first such contest for Lexington first baseman Ryan O'Hearn.

"You want to swing out of your shoes, but you just have to settle in," he said.

O'Hearn needed only two homers in the finals after third baseman Rhys Hoskins of the Lakewood BlueClaws produced only one. O'Hearn added a couple of more for good measure for a total of nine to win the contest at McCormick Field.

The Royals prospect was able to take aim at right field, with the dimensions showing 297 feet down the line.

"That's why I'm happy we had it here," he said.

In the first half of the season, O'Hearn smacked 16 home runs in 65 games for the Legends. That's three more than during his 64-game season last year for Rookie-level Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League. 

One of O'Hearn's regular-season homers came in Asheville, so he was aware of the comfortable dimensions coming into the competition. He said swinging for the fences is part of his routine, so he doesn't expect his Derby swings to put him out of whack.

"The last round of batting practice every day, I'm trying to hit home runs anyway," he said.

Lexington teammate Alfredo Escalera said O'Hearn's power shows have become, well, the stuff of legend around his team.

"He has a great swing," Escalera said. "I wasn't surprised he won it."

Delmarva's Conor Bierfeldt advanced to the semifinal round before Hoskins and O'Hearn were left to slug it out. In between rounds, former big leaguer Vinny Castilla, a special assistant to the general manager for Colorado Rockies, the parent organization of the Asheville affiliate, took swings to entertain the crowd.

All-Star Notes

Back in time: Second baseman Steve Wilkerson of the Delmarva Shorebirds said he wasn't even expecting to be in the game before he found out a couple of days ago that he was on the North Division roster.

He made the most of the opportunity by drilling a two-run homer in the game.

Wilkerson made the All-Star team despite playing in only 43 games so far this season. He said he was surprised to be selected, because he missed almost three weeks with an injury and didn't return to action until two weeks ago. He came off the disabled list earlier this month and the next thing he knew, he was added to the event.

Showing off: Asheville's McCormick Field served hosts for the All-Star Game for the sixth time, the third time in the South Atlantic League. The circuit last brought its showcase event here in 1996.

An overflow crowd of 4,423 was on hand for the game.

"I think it has been tremendously successful," league president Eric Krupa said of the All-Star festivities.

During the offseason, the facility upgraded with new chair-back seats throughout the grandstand. Other areas have been enhanced in recent years in stages.

"It really gives it something more, a refreshing of the whole stadium," Krupa said. "Here you have some of the closest seats to the action in baseball."

Bob Sutton is a contributor to 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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