Home Run Derby X discovers local talent in Hartford

August 11th, 2023

After successful tours in Seoul, London (twice) and Mexico City, Home Run Derby X has officially landed in the United States. The dinger-filled event held tryouts Thursday afternoon to complete its rosters for the main event Friday at the Hartford Yard Goats' own Dunkin' Park.

Thirty-six participants, selected out of over 200 applicants, flocked to the park to team up and test their skills against one another. Whether it be a Connecticut police officer, a softball superstar, an influencer, a high school coach, a former pro, HRDX had it all.

Players were broken off into teams and competed for $1,000 each. But cash wasn't the only thing these players were competing for. The real prize was to be drafted. Former World Series champions and Home Run Derby X legends Jonny Gomes, Jake Arrieta, Dexter Fowler and Nick Swisher had their eyes set on scouting in preparation for selecting their two teammates for Friday's main event.

Yet the pressure didn't get to many of the participants.

"The mindset is to come here and have fun," said Simon Kudernatsch, a former Czech national baseball player. "I like winning but I'm just hoping to enjoy the day."

Others though took a different approach.

“I am always very competitive. I love to have fun but I don’t know how to turn off the competitiveness," said Jessica Verdi, a former all-state shortstop and current all-star roller derby player. “I’m here to win.”

For those of you not familiar with HRDX, here's how it works:

  • Each hitter has one at-bat of 2 minutes, 30 seconds with the opposing team in the outfield
  • A home run scores one point for the offense
  • A catch by an outfielder scores one point for the defense
  • Extra points can be earned through hitting hot streaks, target strikes, and in-game boosters
  • A Tag in/Tag out option is available for each at-bat
  • The team with the most total points after all at-bats wins the game

As for tryout day, players were paired into 12 co-ed teams of three, each representing a Major League club. The teams were then fit into four groups, three teams each, where they each played two games in a round-robin tournament. The winners of each group advanced to a semi-final. The semi-final winners then slugged out to determine the day's champion.

After the afternoon of smashing baseballs concluded, the HRDX legends prepared their draft boards and selected their teammates. Aside from the already established-rosters, here were Thursday's selections:

Arrieta's Schoolboys:

Megan Lucas:
Lucas is a former four-time All-American Softball Player at James Madison University. She rounded out her college career with an amazing 1.03 ERA and a batting average of .351 and 45 homers.

Alex Rauso:
Rauso played Division II baseball at the University of Bridgeport. He currently holds the career RBI record at the university.

Gomes' Steamed Cheeseburgers:

Shauna Looze:
Looze is a former high school softball captain who currently competes in various tournaments around the country. In her spare time, she paints cornhole boards, usually with some kind of sports logo.

Liam Scafariello:
Scafariello was a 2015 Atlanta Braves draft pick. He’s the all-time Quinnipiac University home run leader. He also has a five-pound dog.

Fowler's Chivos:

Ashlyn Desaulniers:
Desaulniers is a current Division I softball player and Gatorade Player of the Year finalist. She is a three-time Connecticut state champion who’s been playing the game since she was 4 years old.

Ural Forbes:
Forbes won the most recent HRDX event in London with Fowler and is back, hoping to do it again. Forbes has plenty of baseball experience, most notably playing for Great Britain in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

Swisher's Bouncing Pickles:

Lauren Burke:
Burke played Division I softball at the University of Texas, having played in the Women's College World Series. She also has a major social media presence with 840,000 followers on TikTok.

Brendan Griffin:
Griffin is an all-around freak athlete, having experience in college baseball, professional football and the WWE. Similar to Burke, he also has a major social media presence.