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On deck: Nats prospect gets thrill out of aircraft Derby

MLB.com @JamalCollier

LOS ANGELES -- Drew Ward grew up in Leedey, Okla., and had never been on an aircraft carrier. So it would have been hard for Ward to imagine himself hitting baseballs off a carrier into San Diego Bay.

Ward, the Nationals' No. 14 prospect, was one of the participants in the Midway Classic Home Run Derby on Monday, held on the deck of the USS Midway, a former World War II Naval aircraft now anchored in San Diego. Home plate was stationed about 245 feet from the edge of the ship, with pink buoys marking the fence 350 feet from the cage.

LOS ANGELES -- Drew Ward grew up in Leedey, Okla., and had never been on an aircraft carrier. So it would have been hard for Ward to imagine himself hitting baseballs off a carrier into San Diego Bay.

Ward, the Nationals' No. 14 prospect, was one of the participants in the Midway Classic Home Run Derby on Monday, held on the deck of the USS Midway, a former World War II Naval aircraft now anchored in San Diego. Home plate was stationed about 245 feet from the edge of the ship, with pink buoys marking the fence 350 feet from the cage.

"It was a lot of fun; it was different," Ward said on Thursday. "Smart idea by them. We all had a really good time."

California and Carolina Leagues hold HR Derby on aircraft carrier

Ward did not make it far in the Derby -- getting bounced in the first round after hitting three home runs in a contest eventually won by Mariners prospect Kyle Petty -- but he still enjoyed the experience surrounding the California League-Carolina League All-Star Game.

"Being on the ship -- I'd never seen one before," Ward said. "So just being on an aircraft carrier and getting to look around was probably the coolest moment."

Ward was among the four players from Class A Advanced Potomac selected for the All-Star Game, along with right-hander Ryan Brinley and outfielders Alec Keller and Andrew Stevenson.

It was well deserved after an impressive first half from Ward, who is putting together his most impressive season since he was drafted in the third round of the 2013 Draft. He is hitting .292/.390/.516 with 11 home runs, already a career high. He attributed his success to the use of a leg kick instead of a toe tap before his swing, a suggestion made by a hitting instructor in the Arizona Fall League.

"That's making me see the pitches a lot longer, sitting on some balls that I usually don't," Ward said. "It's giving me a little more downward angle on my swing, where I can evaluate some balls and hit more home runs."

Worth noting
• A pair of Nats prospects were named the Most Valuable Players of their respective All-Star Games this week. Stevenson, the Nats' No. 8 prospect, earned the honor after going 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI triples and two runs scored. Infielder Max Schrock, from Class A Hagerstown, drove in both runs in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game to secure MVP honors in that game.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

 

Washington Nationals