WASHINGTON -- One hundred and fifty-three home runs.No, this number is not associated with Major League sluggers like J.D. Martinez, Jose Ramirez or Aaron Judge. This was the total number of blasts 16 participants in the third annual Jr. Home Run Derby launched at Nationals Park on Saturday morning.With a
WASHINGTON -- One hundred and fifty-three home runs.
No, this number is not associated with Major League sluggers like J.D. Martinez, Jose Ramirez or Aaron Judge. This was the total number of blasts 16 participants in the third annual Jr. Home Run Derby launched at Nationals Park on Saturday morning.
With a fence placed about 250 feet away from home plate, eight youngsters from both the 12U and 14U divisions took part in a quick batting practice session before stepping to the plate, ready to compete. Each batter received three warm-up pitches before having 20 attempts to hit as many home runs as they could.
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For the 14U division, Cade Climie from Sugar Land, Texas, defeated Matthew Mebane of Hilton Head, S.C., in the finals. The only left-handed hitter in the competition, Esteban Garcia from Woodhaven, N.Y., took down Florida native Joshua Agriesti in the 12U championship round to bring home the title on his mother's birthday.
"I told her, 'Happy Birthday,' [after I finished]," Garcia said. "It's cool, because I kept telling her I was going to win. I ended up winning for her."
Garcia launched 10 homers in the first round and stopped after his championship-winning fifth home run in the middle of his final round. Climie put up the most homers in a single round, blasting 18 in his first round. Like Garcia, Climie stopped in his championship round after he hit the clinching 11th homer.
"[I prepared by] hitting every day," Climie said. "I do it almost every day after school and [during] the summer."
All of Saturday's participants qualified for the event by advancing through sectional and regional rounds throughout the country. But nothing compared to hitting in a Major League stadium.
"It shows me that I'm going to be here one day," Garcia said. "I know I'm going to be here one day."
"This is a culmination of the hard work that they've put in to get to this point," said Tony Reagins, MLB's executive vice president of baseball and softball development. "To have it on this stage and have it a part of All-Star [Week], it's a cool experience for these young guys and their families. I think it's something that we want to continue to do -- and do more [to] get kids participating."
The path to receiving a Jr. Home Run Derby trophy is not easy. According to Reagins, over 40,000 kids participated throughout the country -- which doubled the total from last year.
"It's great," Reagins said. "It just means there's more kids out there participating and becoming more aware of the program. That's the exciting part. So if you can get more kids participating, the [Jr. Home Run Derby] is pretty exciting. But hopefully ... they don't stop playing when they reach 13 or 14 years old and [these kids] continue to play and be a part of our game long term."
To recognize all of their hard work, both Climie and Garcia will be honored alongside their idols at the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
"This is pretty crazy. I never thought I'd be here," Climie said. "[I'm looking forward to] seeing my name on the scoreboard when I walk on the field and everyone starts cheering."
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While watching the 2018 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX on Tuesday, fans can submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet with the 2018 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote.
The 89th Midsummer Classic, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.
For more information about MLB All-Star Week and to purchase tickets, visit AllStarGame.com and follow @MLB and @AllStarGame on social media.
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.