The 500 Foot Home Run: The Staple Of The Power Showcase
People love watching baseballs get hammered.
To watch a hitter turn on a ball and drive it an amazing distance away has always excited baseball fans with lasting memories. Fans have always loved the excitement of a home run, and the biggest shots ever hit garner ageless recognition. The home run is a symbol of power, which makes the 500-foot home runs a symbol of dominance of such power. These “moonshots” become baseball lore, an admiration and acknowledgment of hitting prowess that registers well above the norm.
The biggest home runs ever hit will never be forgotten. In the 2008 MLB All Star game held at the old Yankee Stadium, Josh Hamilton slugged a record 28 home runs in the opening round, with several that traveled more than 500 feet. The following year, a then 16-year old phenom named Bryce Harper rocked the baseball world when he crushed a 502-foot shot over the screen, 20 feet above the JumboTron at Tampa’s Tropicana Field. Harper’s blast came during the POWER SHOWCASE Home Run Derby, forever linking the event into the history of the game.
In 2014, the POWER SHOWCASE welcomes a new crop of talented young players from across the globe, most of whom are capable of becoming the next player who dazzles the crowds with majestic blasts out of Miami Marlins Park. Since Harper’s infamous home run, California’s Travis Harrison (1st Rd Twins 2010 draft) eclipsed Harper’s, with a 504 ft. home run the following year. The 5th Annual World Champion, Daniel Vogelbach (2nd Rd Cubs 2011 draft), pushed the tape-measure even farther with a monstrous head-shaking 508-foot blast at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. Last year’s World Champion, David Denson, surpassed that mark setting yet another amateur World-Record 515-foot blast that reached the top of the scoreboard in center field at Marlins Park.
In the event’s eighth year this January, founder Brian Domenico admits that there is still nothing more exciting than watching the long-ball leave the yard.
“It’s like an unripened piece of fruit,” said Domenico. “It allows Scouts, Parents and Fans to speculate and daydream about each players ceiling. These aspiring athletes are not quite in pro ball or even college yet, so that projection and fantasy allure is still quite evident. These talented prospects are hitting baseballs farther than the Major League guys do with the wood bats. Last year, we had a few players hitting balls completely out of the stadium. Every year, I order 100 dozen baseballs for the event, so with the roof open during the day, the bright, warm, Florida sun shining down, mixing with the amazing stadium colors, the music blasting…that’s when a player locks-in and gets hot; that’s when the environment gets most exciting.”
The POWER SHOWCASE Home Run Derby has become world renowned as a platform for the greatest young power hitters in the game. The event gives professional scouts a realistic projection of what the players will be capable of as they grow and develop. Harper’s POWER SHOWCASE success forshadowed his fast rise to the Major Leagues to the point where he excelled in this year’s MLB Home Run Derby, Travis Harrison went on to become a first round draft pick by the Minnesota Twins; to date, Daniel Vogelbach has already amassed 37 home runs with the Cubs; and Denson went on to lead the Arizona Rookie League in home runs following last year’s derby title.
“The POWER SHOWCASE is an experience I will never forget for the rest of my life,” said Denson. “I’ve been playing baseball since I was three years old and my goal is to one day play the Major Leagues. POWER SHOWCASE gave me more of a push to always work 110% in practice and in the games. I just want to say God is good and I have been truly blessed. I still feel like I’m in a dream, and I don’t want to wake up.”
Beyond the sheer talent of the participants, the POWER SHOWCASE has developed a winning formula that creates the most optimal environment to showcase their abilities. Domenico has created the best blend of resources possible to ensure that players compete in a setting that is second to none. Hitters enjoy the luxury of a hitting machine delivering the highest quality baseballs while using both metal and wood bats for a total of Twenty outs.
Domenico understands that most high school ball players are accustomed to taking batting practice from a bucket of various used baseballs. These balls tend to be water-logged, old, and worn down. Typically, it is a mix of various types such as Baden, Wilson, or Diamond, which creates a variety in the quality. The seams are raised more on some than on others.
The POWER SHOWCASE uses the highest quality baseballs, Jugs Pearls. These balls are built much like a Rawlings MLB issue ball, with a thin seam that is hardly raised at all. Whereas most high school baseballs have a thicker seam, the Jugs Pearls are more aero-dynamic.
The Jugs Pearls work perfectly with the pitching machine that has been a staple of the POWER SHOWCASE since its inception in 2004. The velocity is set between 65 and 68 miles per hour, providing consistency. While Domenico admits that most high school hitters do not prefer hitting off the machine, it is something that he has come to appreciate as the best way to compete in a home run derby. It levels the playing field, and honestly, the more accomplished hitters can hit off anything.
“I should have a doctorate in pitching machines,” Domenico joked. “When actual BP Throwers are pitching batting practice, the ball loses a lot of velocity as it’s entering the hitting zone around 50 miles per hour. With the pitching machine, you have those wheels, and the rotation backwards is so aggressive that the ball really doesn’t slow down as much, creating a heavy ball. Once the hitters get the timing down, they can really leave their shoes. Since you’re creating so much more bat speed and pitch velocity at the contact point, you’re really seeing that ball explode and travel further. It simulates a 3-1 count – David Ortiz is sitting Dead Red…See Ya!”
With the 500-foot mark having been eclipsed four times in the past five years, Domenico has little doubt that it will be reached again in 2014. The pool of talent continues to expand each year, as has the interest of professional scouts all looking for the next big star ready to burst on the scene. This platform creates an ideal setting for the type of special athletes in attendance, guys who know how to channel their big moments to their maximum potential.
Within the framework of the derby is also another unique aspect that helps to stimulate the highest level of success. This is done through the breakdown of how each player is given their allotted outs. Participants begin by cycling through in groups of two, with each given their first five outs while using a wooden bat. After both have gone, they proceed to take their swings for 15 outs using a metal bat.
“By the time they get back up again, the butterflies are out, their anxiety has subsided, and they’ve had a chance to delve into their higher level of centered inner focus,” said Domenico. “Now they can get comfortable, focus, and absolutely let loose on balls. Typically, most derby competitions are run with providing only ten outs, so this happens around their seventh out, and before they know, it’s ten outs, and they’re finished. Having fifteen outs really maximizes their opportunity to get completely comfortable. When that happens, the player gets hot, he knows it, the crowd knows it, and we all eagerly await with anticipation in hopes to bear witness something special. That’s when each player personally experiences something new within themselves.”
With so many hitters capable of reaching the 500-foot mark, there is even the chance that more than one of them will eclipse the mark during this year’s POWER SHOWCASE.
The Power-Showcase 500 Club