FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - There were three former big league stars -- Jake Arrieta, Ian Desmond and Jonny Gomes -- and one softball legend in Jocelyn Alo, the all-time NCAA home run leader, all crammed into one conference room. Here, they had some decisions to make. Here, it didn't matter what they did out on the field. Instead the four team captains would have to rely entirely on their eye for baseball talent:
It was time for the Home Run Derby X draft.
"I'm excited to be here. I'm excited to win," Alo said before her first pick, which she used to select former Nationals World Series winner Gerardo Parra. "We've gotta have 'Baby Shark' on the team."
Even though the three former Major Leaguers may have tried to convince her to take someone else, there was no swaying Alo from her position.
"All the guys were trying to say, like, 'Oh, don't pick him. He's so-and-so,'" Alo said, mimicking her competitors. "I was like, 'Are you serious? I know who this is. Of course he's going first.'"
Ahead of Saturday's Home Run Derby X event hosted by the Fredericksburg Nationals, the HRDX legends had to select two players each. They also needed to make sure that their teams were co-ed, a requirement in the game.
With Parra off the board, the selections got a little more difficult. That's because the four ballplayers had just watched 36 amateur players tryout in 95 degree weather earlier that day. There was plenty of talent on hand, including a former big league pitcher in Bobby Wahl, multiple Minor Leaguers, indy ball players and college stars ... to go along with tremendous players who may not have picked up a bat since high school.
That meant the big leaguers would need to rely on the eye test and what they saw from a few hours out on the sun-drenched ball field.
"I came all the way up from Florida and the intention was to win," Desmond said.
With his first pick, he created a little drama. He snagged former University of Bridgeport star Alex Rauso, who was part of Arrieta's winning team in Hartford.
"I got a former champion. You know, winners win and that's what I'm hoping for," Desmond said. "Alex has big shoes and he's going to have to show up for us."
While the draft room may have been home to some good-natured ribbing between the stars, it was really the culmination of a day-long baseball celebration. Though only eight players -- and four more reserve alternates -- were selected to move on to Saturday, all 36 of the participants seemed to love the experience. They were outside on a work day, swinging bats, bashing dingers, and just soaking up the game.
“I haven’t seen anyone without a smile on their face," Colby Auerbach, who has been playing baseball since he was three years old, said.
Each of the trialists may have been competing against each other for the few spots available, but rather than turning the day into a "Lord of the Flies"-esque contest of constant one upmanship, they all seemed to simply love getting to take a few hacks alongside some brand new friends.
"Honestly, this whole atmosphere, this setting [is exciting]," Shannon Webb, a former ballplayer in the U.S. Marine Corps, said. "Meeting you all, meeting these guys, meeting big league ballplayers, people in the community -- this is just an awesome, awesome experience all the way around."
Of course, it could also be a little more simple than that.
"I'm excited to hit," Marika Lyszczyk, a former Canadian Women's National Team member and the first woman to catch in NCAA baseball, said.
It also didn't hurt that they could sidle up to a star and -- as Gomes would say -- "talk ball."
"They're coming up and we're reliving stories of them watching certain highlights of my career or certain games and telling stories and just getting to know each other," Arrieta said. "That's been super fun. Whether they formally played college baseball, college softball or played some pro ball, we have that connection, so it's always fun to pick each other's brains and just enjoy the game of baseball together."
When the draft was over and Gomes looked at his squad, featuring returning HRDX and USA Women's National Team star Ashton Lansdell and former D1 college slugger Beau Banglesdorf, he had just one thing to say:
"Squad looks absolutely fantastic, by the way."
Read on below for the full roster breakdown. Each of the teams will be rocking one of the Fredericksburg Nationals -- affectionately known as the FredNats -- alternate identities.
The Choppin' Georges
Jocelyn Alo - The all-time NCAA home run leader -- among both men and women -- Alo is a bona fide homer-crushing star and the first female captain in HRDX history. The Oklahoma Sooners legend now lines up for the Oklahoma City Spark in Women's Professional Fastpitch and will be looking to repeat her Mexico City HRDX performance that earned her the MVP Award.
Gerardo Parra - Though he wasn't in Fredericksburg on Friday -- hence the poster the team posed with above -- that didn't stop the former MLB player and two-time Gold Glove Award winner from being drafted first overall. Perhaps best known for coming to bat to "Baby Shark," the children's song guaranteed to get lodged in your brain, Parra won the 2019 World Series with the Nationals.
Luke Lowery - A 14th round Draft pick by the D-backs in 2015, Lowery caught and played first base and the outfield in his Minor League and independent ball career that lasted until 2019. A three-time MiLB All-Star, Lowery also won the 2015 Northwest League/Pioneer League Home Run Derby.
Jay Stott (Team pitcher) - A HRDX veteran, Stott is a former UNC Wilmington college player who has traveled the globe providing baseball instruction. The general manager of Pro5 Baseball Academy, Stott has held clinics in Germany, Hungary, Spain, Austria, Slovakia and elsewhere and helped coach the Czech Republic National Team at the 2019 European Championships.
"My job is very easy," Stott said. "Just lay it in there, little bit of a loop, where they want it. Hit their barrel, and it's going to fly out of here."
Ian Desmond - A two-time All-Star and a three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Desmond played 11 Major League seasons -- most notably with the Nationals from 2009-15. Though he came up as a shortstop, Desmond eventually saw time at nearly every position save for catcher and third base. He finished his big league career with 181 home runs ... and 181 stolen bases.
Alex Rauso - Rauso's name should be familiar to HRDX fans: He was on Jake Arrieta's event-winning team in Hartford two weeks ago. This time around, Desmond snagged the former University of Bridgeport standout, who holds the school record for career RBIs.
Jasmine Picini - Picini started playing softball at 6 years old and hasn't stopped yet. A four-year starter in high school, Picini went on to play Division 3 softball as a catcher and third baseman. She now coaches a 16u travel ball team and is the head coach for Woodson High School's varsity softball team.
Sammy Serrano (Team pitcher) - A 1st Team Freshman All-American in 1996 and a 1st Team All-American in 1998 at Stetson University, Serrano was drafted in the 2nd round by the San Francisco Giants. Unfortunately, his career ended in 2002 following a shoulder injury. Since then, he has coached at the college level and has served various coaching and evaluation roles for USA baseball since 2008. He is now a coach for the Pro5 Academy.
Jonny Gomes -The consummate team player and fan favorite, Gomes was renowned for almost always playing for winning teams. He collected World Series rings with the Red Sox (2013) and Royals (2015) and won HRDX Mexico City while representing the Red Sox last year. He finished his big league career with 162 home runs.
Ashton Lansdell - The last time you may have seen Lansdell on the field? Two weeks ago when she helped the USA Women's National Team go 5-0 at the WBSC Women's Baseball World Cup in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The star third baseman, who is participating in her fifth HRDX event, will then head back to FIU to rejoin the school's softball team.
Beau Banglesdorf - Named after the beloved Baltimore beer Natty Boh (yes, really), Banglesdorf was a D1 college ballplayer for Towson University, James Madison University, and Eastern Mennonite University. Representing the Astros on tryout day, Banglesdorf went supernova in the box to come back from an 11-point deficit, smashing a walk-off home run that certainly was on Gomes' mind in the draft room.
Mack Jenkins (Team pitcher) - The Reds pitching coach from 2016-18, Jenkins helped oversee the development of future stars like starter Luis Castillo and closer Raisel Iglesias. He also has a pretty unique highlight: He broke up the longest winning streak in American professional baseball history when he snapped the Salt Lake Trappers' 29-game winning streak while in the Minor Leagues in 1987. He's now a coach for the Pro5 Baseball Academy.
The Gus Bus
Jake Arrieta - One event, one win: That's Arrieta's record so far. The 2015 Cy Young Award winner and 2016 World Series champion -- and 2016 Silver Slugger winner -- with the Cubs showed off that pitchers can rake in Hartford and he's looking to do it again in Fredericksburg.
"I got the top performer with my first pick in Charlie Morgan and went with Bailey Klingler, who is a professional softball player," Arrieta said. "She's got some power so we're in a good position to win this thing again."
Charlie Morgan - Arguably the standout performer from Friday's tryout, Morgan is a former D1 college player from Wake Forest University who hit 14 home runs in his four-year college career. He's not the only person with the baseball bug in the family, though: His father drives the bullpen cart for the Washington Nationals.
Baylee Klingler - Klingler has been on a winning streak lately: The No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 Women's Professional Fastpitch Draft not only won the league title with the Texas Smoke this year, but also helped Team USA softball go 4-0 at Group A at the 2023 WBSC Women's Softball World Cup. Klingler was also a two-time First-Team All-American and Pac-12 Player of the Year during a standout career at the University of Washington.
Corey Lee (Team pitcher) - A former MLB 1st round pick, Lee made his Major League debut with the Rangers in 1999 before finding success later in his career with Japan's Nippon Ham Fighters. An All-Star at all three Minor League levels, Lee has served as the pitching coaching with the Czech Republic National Team and is now the pitching coordinator for Pro5 Baseball Academy.