DENVER -- On Saturday, two of the biggest power bats in prep baseball belted home runs in front of friends and family at Coors Field. Two days later, they did it with nearly every seat in Coors Field full.
Jared Jones and Sal Stewart belted five homers apiece in their final stanza of All-Star High School Home Run Derby action between the first and second round of the T-Mobile Home Run Derby. The two were declared co-champions.
For Stewart, the hope already exists that he'll be back.
“Hopefully it won’t be my last [All-Star] experience," he said on Monday night. "But it was something I will never forget, that’s for sure.
“Obviously I had some nerves, but I knew I’ve worked hard for that moment, so I knew I was prepared. When I got out there, honestly there was so much noise that you just heard like a blur. I was just focused on what I needed to do and enjoying the moment and just having fun.”
“We were sitting in the room below the stadium just watching the Home Run Derby, and then the next thing we know, we’re on the field in front of 50,000 people," he said. "It was just a really cool experience just taking it all in for the first time. Sal’s a great competitor. It didn’t end I think the way either of us wanted in a tie, but I know we both had a lot of fun.”
Stewart flashed some of the immense power that he first displayed on Saturday, reaching the rows just in front of the left-field concourse Monday night.
“That first swing, when I swung, I was going to look a second, but then I was like, ‘Nah, that ball is going for a long time,’" he said. "[My parents] told me that it bounced and hit the scoreboard and I was like, ‘Man, I didn’t know I hit it that far.’ It was pretty awesome. It felt good, great way to start.”
Two days prior, he rocketed a ball 533 feet en route to amassing 26 homers through two rounds. Monday was extremely different with tens of thousands of fans in attendance for the first Home Run Derby in Denver in 23 years.
"It felt awesome," he said of the crowd. "It felt like something that now when I get back home, I’ll have that picture in my head that that’s what I’m working for every day, to be an All-Star in MLB, a multi-time All-Star. That’s what I’ll strive for every day.”
Jones echoed that sentiment.
“That’s obviously everybody’s goal in this game, to make it to that level and be on that stage every day. Just getting a first taste of it and what that would be like is awesome. It was kind of a blink of an eye and it was over, but I’m hoping it’ll be here for a lot longer.”
Stewart, a product of Westminster Christian HS in Florida, explained Saturday that the reality of taking part in Monday's festivities hadn't hit him yet.
“It hasn’t settled in yet,” Stewart said, sporting a broad smile. “I was just focusing on getting there, but I guess now I’ve just got to be who I am. That’s what’s gotten me here, just being myself, being the person I am, working hard. My parents have given me everything I could ask for, and just making them proud, that’s what makes me proud.”
A towering catcher who listed at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Jones also hammered blasts in front of the packed house at Coors Field.
“My heart was pounding a little bit, but once I got into the box and took a few swings, everything started to calm down," he said. "I only had a minute to swing, so I was just trying to get as many swings as possible. Looking back on it, it was just kind of surreal to be in that moment. It’s going to probably take me still some time to realize what just happened, but it was an unforgettable moment for sure.”
Both players are in the high school class of 2022. Jones is committed to play collegiately at LSU while Stewart will head to SEC rival Vanderbilt.
For Stewart, Monday's festivities were all about family and the road he's already traveled.
“I train every day just to make sure that I make [my parents] proud, and I know that I made them proud playing today," he said. "I’m glad that I was able to do that. I know that I gave it my all and that I worked hard for it, so that’s what made me happy. Win or loss, as long as I made my parents happy, that’s all I cared about.”