MANCHESTER, N.H. – One week after we were live from Hyde Park with the MLB Battlegrounds’ Home Run Derby, we enjoyed another picture-perfect evening on the other side of the pond at the Eastern League All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby. Eight competitors took the field, but it was Gabriel Quintana and winner Aderlin Rodriguez who put on jaw-dropping displays of power at the New Hampshire Fisher Cats’ stadium.
Hometown favourite Gunnar Heidt, hitting only .232 on the season, pulled off a stunning upset in the first bracket, stroking eight home runs to upset Eastern League home run leader Mitch Walding, who finished with seven in the two-and-one-half minute round. Heidt, hardly built like a slugger, sprayed line drives just fair down the left field line, whilst Walding struggled to get in a groove.
The next pairing was former first round draft pick and 2012 No. 63 prospect, Slade Heathcott. Formerly a top Yankees’ farmhand, the left-handed hitter is reinventing himself in the Giant’s system and off to a strong start. His six roundtrippers gave him a chance, but Aderlin Rodríguez overcame a slow start to walk off and advance with seven.
Ryan McBroom, selected for his fourth consecutive minor league All-Star Game, knocked only four out of Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, as his power was limited to the gaps. Yu-Cheng Chang, a talented shortstop from Chinese Taipei and the No. 6 Indians’ prospect, easily overcame McBroom, earning a celebration with a walkoff dinger.
The final spot in the semi-finals came down to Jiandido Tromp and Gabriel Quintana. Tromp, a native of Aruba and the only Home Run Derby participate eligible to play for a European country, struggled to find a groove, but still popped five bombs. That was not enough to stop Quintana, who hit six with time to spare and was mobbed by his Erie SeaWolves teammates as he advanced.
Heidt, the most diminutive of the participants, finished with a first round-leading eight, while Walding had the second most and exited the contest. Heidt took on Rodríguez in Round Two and duplicated his performance with seven in an extra 30 seconds, but the Bowie Baysox’ Rodríguez needed only two of his three minutes to rip nine four-baggers and advance to the final.
It was all Quintana in the other semi, who put on an electric display with 18 home runs in three minutes, knocking homer after homer with numerous consecutive leaving the stadium. The Dominican native thrilled the crowd with the locked-in feat, drawing a standing ovation and hugs from the entire dugout as time ran out.
Chang, who is second in the Eastern League in home runs, looked to still be growing into his power, spraying line drives, but finishing a distant second to Quintana with four homers.
With 24 home runs for Quintana and 16 in roughly half-time for Rodríguez, there was no doubt it would be an explosive finish, and neither disappointed. Rodríguez, appearing in his second straight Eastern League Home Run Derby, looked far more ripped than his 6-3, 210-pound roster note suggested, and showed off light-tower strength with 13 more home runs, including a 440 feet monster.
Quintana stepped up needed 14 to take the crown, but got off to a slow start with four in just over a minute before taking a timeout. The quick breather got the Orioles’ minor leaguer back on track, blasting nine in the next 70 seconds, but hit several to the wall before finishing with 13.
Both players received a rousing applause from fans and excited teammates, and Rodríguez was surprised with an upended water cooler upon returning to the dugout. The Fisher Cats’ emcee wrapped up the night by exclaiming, “What an incredible display of human strength, and also good sportsmanship,” and there was no better way of summing up the evening, which featured joyous yet respectful celebrations and several tremendous homers.
Extra Innings will be live from the Eastern League All-Star Game tomorrow just before midnight GMT (7 p.m. EST), and will have an interview with Giandido Tromp beforehand.