San Diego, California -- The California League vs. Carolina League All-Star festivities kicked off in San Diego Monday night, aboard the deck of the U.S.S. Midway with a home run contest. Four sluggers from each league took turns blasting majestic home runs into the Pacific Ocean. Home plate was located approximately 250 feet off of the ocean, which markers set up in the water to determine which balls qualified as home runs. There were plenty of highlights to be seen but ultimately Kyle Petty of the Bakersfield Blaze (Seattle organization) won with eight bombs in the final round.
The even began with Yu-Cheng Chang of the Lynchburg Hellcats (Cleveland) hitting two home runs in his allotted 10 swings, not outs like in the Major League home run derby. Chang, 20, has hit eight home runs in the Carolina League in 2016. He did not make the second round.
The aforementioned Petty and Bobby Bradley also of Lynchburg, led first round participants with six home runs apiece. Dawel Lugo of the Visalia Rawhide (Arizona) and Aderlin Rodriguez of the Fredrick Keys (Baltimore) also advanced to the second round.
Travis Demeritte who plays for the High Desert Mavericks (Rangers), was forced into a tiebreaker with Lugo, but homered just once in his allotted five swings. Demeritte, who plays in the hitter-friendly environment of High Desert, leads all participants with 18 regular season home runs.
“It was different than anything I have ever done but it was a really fun atmosphere -- everyone was here having a good time. I felt like, for a righty it was more difficult, but I just tried to swing as hard as I could and hit the ball in the direction the wind was blowing. Obviously, none of us have ever done this before but I just indulged myself in the experience,” said Demeritte.
The second round was tightly contested as Petty, Lugo, and Rodriguez each had six home runs apiece. Petty and Lugo had a five-swing playoff to determine the Cal League representative in the finals. Petty homered on his final swing to move on with a 2-1 win over Lugo.
After Rodriguez homered four times, Petty had his best round yet, with five home runs on his first six swings to win. Just for fun, Petty took his full allotment of 10 swings and ended the final round with a derby-high eight homers.
“This was definitely the weirdest environment I have ever hit in but it wasn’t a game, so it wasn’t too nerve-wracking. I was swinging harder than usual but I wanted to stay in control, “ said Petty.
Petty, 25, who was drafted by the Mariners in the 23rd round back in 2013, out of California University of Pennsylvania, reflected out on his accomplishment.
“Aside from all the team accomplishments, this is up there, in terms of my personal achievements,” said Petty, after winning the Midway Classic.
The festivities continue tomorrow in Lake Elsinore, California, where the California League All-Stars will host the Carolina League All-Stars.