The San Diego Padres A-Ball affiliate in the California League, the Lake Elsinore Storm hosted a unique home run derby on the deck of the USS Midway. The “Midway Classic” was the first of its kind in which a full home run derby was held on the deck of a U.S. military ship. East Village Times was lucky enough to be in attendance and the event was very memorable.
The night kicked off just before 5:00 when the ship was cleared of museum goers. Sadly I will admit this was my first time on the USS Midway. Even though I have lived in San Diego my entire life, I had just never managed to come aboard the mammoth vessel. More often that not as a native to a city, you often become complacent when it comes to visiting your areas tourist attractions. The Midway was a place I often meant to go and see, I just never made it out there. This event was a great way to showcase the ship and I was entirely impressed by the sheer size and volume of this vessel.
The eight competitors were available and on hand before the event. The crowd, media and participants basically intermingled with each other before the festivities began. That provided a very quaint and unique atmosphere. VIP guests were treated to free drink and food with the purchase of their ticket. On top of the eight competitors, most of their All-Star teammates were also on hand signing some autographs and mingling with the crowd. The San Diego Padres had several players there as Luis Urias, Colby Blueberg and Josh Van Meter were all in attendance.
Bobby Bradley (Cle) 1B/DH
Yu-Cheng Chang (Cle) SS/3B
Aderlin Rodriguez (Bal) 3B/1B
Drew Ward (Was) 3B/DH
Travis Demeritte (Tex) 2B/3B/SS
Dawel Lugo (Ari) SS
Chris Shaw (SF) 1B/DH
Kyle Petty (Sea) 1B/OF/3B
The participants would get 10 swings each and the top four after the first round would advance. Orioles infielder Yu-Cheng Chang started the event off. It took him a little bit to get going but the slugger managed three home runs out of his 10 swings. It was very entertaining to sit and watch the contest from the bow of the ship. We had perfect viewing point of the buoys in the water that signified the proper distance for a home run. We were very curious to see how the distance of each ball was to be communicated to the P.A. announcer. A flag man was placed at the back of the boat and he relayed weather or not the ball had the proper distance to count as a home run. Some players clearly had a problem adjusting to not seeing an outfield wall as a target. It must have also been difficult seeing a crowd and media with photographers standing behind a chain link fence within feet behind the batting practice pitcher.
At the end of the first round Kyle Petty and Bobby Bradley automatically advanced with six home runs in their 10 swings. Dawel Lugo, Aderlin Rodriguez and Travis Demeritte each finished with five home runs each and a sudden death match was needed to break the tie. After a quick battle, Lugo and Demeritte advanced and the Orioles slugging infielder Rodriguez failed to do so. I will say that Rodriguez had some very impressive swings though and really impressed with his bat speed and power.
In the next round the competitors each seemed to get comfortable with the makeshift batters box and media hoopla. Home runs went deeper into the bay and you could almost tell off the bat immediately if a home run had the distance. There was a stiff breeze blowing in off the water, but if a hitter got a hold of a ball well it was surely had the distance to fly over the pink buoys. There were a few boats and jet ski’s out on the bay that were gathering up all the home run balls. The site of seeing them scramble around while balls are flying from the ship was exciting to see.
In the semi-final round Kyle Petty, Dawel Lugo and Aderlin Rodriguez each had six home runs while slugging lefty Bobby Bradley only manage five round trippers. Bradley did hit some prestigious moon shots deep into the bay and you can clearly see his power potential. Bradley was eliminated and the remaining three went into a sudden death where Kyle Petty and Aderlin Rodriguez emerged as the finalist. Lugo, despite being eliminated, showed some impressive power from a middle infielder. The Diamondbacks shortstop powered some balls up the middle and to the right side that had some impressive carry to them. The 21-year old is someone to look out for as far as blossoming power down the road.
The final stage was set and Seattle Mariners farm hand Kyle Petty would battle against Baltimore Orioles infield prospect Aderlin Rodriguez. The 24-year-old Rodriguez would go first and manage to hit four home runs in his final time in the cage. He would hit 15 total home runs through the three rounds and the 25-year-old Petty would need five to walk-off. The 6′ 5″ 215 lbs Petty wasted no time in slugging four straight home runs to tie Rodriguez. On his sixth swing of the final round he clinched the championship. Instead of quitting after sealing the victory, Petty went on to hit three more and recorded an astounding eight homers in his final round. He would total 22 home runs in the contest as the right handed slugger really punished the ball deep into the San Diego Bay. There was no distance being recorded understandably, but Petty easily hit some of the furthest balls of the whole competition.
After the competition the media had a chance to speak to Petty where he proclaimed “These people spend their time and money to come out here and you want to put on a show for them.” The powerful slugger certainly did that for the fans. The whole experience was enjoyable and I heard nothing but positive things from all in attendance. We wish to personally thank Tyler Zickel from the Storm for his hospitality. The event was a great success and Padres fans really should take the trip up north and support the Lake Elsinore Storm. Go Storm!