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Meet fan who won $250K in HR Derby game

@mattkellyMLB
July 11, 2019

There were more than 700,000 brackets submitted for the 2019 T-Mobile Home Run Derby Bracket Challenge. And now, there's one winner. Taking home the $250,000 grand prize: 26-year-old Hunter Mcharry from Olive Branch, Ill., a town on the southern tip of the state bordering Missouri that boasts fewer than 1,000

There were more than 700,000 brackets submitted for the 2019 T-Mobile Home Run Derby Bracket Challenge. And now, there's one winner.

Taking home the $250,000 grand prize: 26-year-old Hunter Mcharry from Olive Branch, Ill., a town on the southern tip of the state bordering Missouri that boasts fewer than 1,000 residents.

Mcharry correctly picked Mets rookie Pete Alonso as the Home Run Derby champion. He picked every Derby matchup correctly. He also correctly picked who would hit the longest home run, Blue Jays rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and how long that home run would be -- a projected 488 feet, per Statcast.

But even that wasn't enough. Mcharry was one of 27 Bracket Challenge participants to correctly pick the Derby winner, the full bracket, the longest home run distance and the player who'd hit it. Those 27 entrants went to a tiebreaker: Predicting the total number of home runs that would be hit in the Derby. Mcharry came closest to guessing the record-setting 312 homers hit Monday night. That means he takes home the largest grand prize in the 15-year history of the Home Run Derby Challenge game.

“I called MLB to make sure,” Mcharry told MLB.com. “You just don’t think that you’re going to win. I fill out these types of brackets a lot, and I guess I do homework on baseball a lot. But I never would have thought I would even come close. I pretty much filled it out for fun.”

Mcharry, a deckhand who is raising four children alongside his fiancée in Olive Branch, said a large portion of his winnings will go toward purchasing a house. Monday’s Derby marked an absolutely life-changing moment for Mcharry and his family, and it came down to an extremely difficult decision in the final round.

“I went against my gut instinct; I thought Vlad Jr. was going to win, to be honest,” Mcharry said. “But I compared the exit velocities and figured Alonso would have a little more to gain from it.”

Mcharry, a Yankees fan whose favorite player is Gleyber Torres, told MLB.com that he checks the Statcast leaderboards on Baseball Savant at least once a day -- and sometimes more. He favored rising stars like Alonso, Guerrero and Ronald Acuna Jr. in this year’s Derby and ultimately went with Alonso, who has hit two of MLB’s three hardest home runs this season.

“A lot of the young guys who are up and coming, I thought they’d have a little more to gain from it,” Mcharry said. “So I figured they’d bring a little more effort. I just figured Alonso had come a long way just in the time he’s come up, since he wasn’t even considered a top prospect. I figured he had a little more ambition to win it.”

This year, of the 700,000-plus entries, 92,616 picked Alonso to win it all. But only 5,237 of those fans also picked all seven individual Home Run Derby matchup winners. And only those last 27 finalists -- 0.5% of the 5,237 correct brackets -- also answered both home run distance questions correctly to be able to potentially win the $250,000 grand prize. It’s a little dizzying to think that one fan emerged from all those entrants, and it proves that anyone who enters the Challenge truly has a chance to win it all.

“It’s just crazy,” Mcharry said. “There’s people who have the opportunity to watch baseball all the time and look at all the metrics daily, and I pretty much do it as a hobby when I can. So knowing that, it makes this win even more worthwhile.”

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.