Zarraga’s 6 HR’s in a Row = National Title!!
Conventional baseball wisdom was almost changed forever at the Inaugural Power Showcase High School Home Run Derby National Finals at Little Fenway Park behind Bucky Dent’s in Delray Beach, Florida on Saturday December 2, 2006. Kevin Patterson, a towering left-handed hitter from Birmingham, AL, shocked all in attendance by choosing to use a wood bat in the final round instead of the more powerful aluminum. According to Patterson, he was not trying to be arrogant; “I am just more comfortable with a wood bat because that is what I use in practice”. Patterson, who has committed to Auburn University, was proving that he had made the correct decision when with only eight outs he hit his seventh home run, giving him seven more outs to hit the necessary two home runs to pass Shawn Zarraga (committed to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) of Boynton Beach, FL for the lead. However, on the next swing Patterson cracked his bat on a frozen rope up the middle. Just like Roy Hobbs after shattering his bat Wonderboy in “The Natural”, Patterson proved to be human without his favorite bat and was unable to hit another home run allowing Zarraga to retain his lead in route to the National Championship.
Zarraga proved to be a worthy National Champion. In both the first round and the finals, Zarraga was able to overcome slow starts to finish strong and put himself in a position to win. With fourteen outs in his opening wood bat round, Zarraga was still without a home run and feeling the pressure. I knew I could not go homerless with the wood, so I stepped out of the box, gathered myself, and was determined to wait for my pitch. Zarraga’s patience worked, as he was able to slug one homer before getting his final out. That one home run gave him the spark he needed to crush eleven in his aluminum bat round giving him twelve home runs overall. Zarraga’s final round reflected his first and with 13 outs he had only hit two home runs. Still, once again he did not panic and consequently went on the greatest home run barrage of the National Finals hitting a Championship record six consecutive home, including a titanic 506 ft. blast over the light tower behind the Green Monster in left field. When asked about his mindset with only two outs remaining, Zarraga answered, With those big hitters behind me, I knew I had to put up a good number, so I just waited for my pitch and let it rip. After those first couple went out, I got in the zone and didn’t miss.
Not only did Zarraga and Patterson finish 1-2 in the Home Run Derby, but they also won the rest of the Showcase’s awards. Because of his amazing finish in the final round, Zarraga took home the awards for most consecutive home runs (6) and longest home run (506 ft.) Patterson won the awards for most home runs in a single round (17) and overall home run total (24).
However, even though Zarraga and Patterson took home all the hardware, it was clear the crowd favorite was local Pat Roedel of West Palm Beach. Cheers from his family and friends helped Roedel get off to a good start in the finals, but unfortunately, mother nature was not in his corner as rain caused the round to be interrupted. After a 45-minute rain delay, Roedel not only had lost part of his cheering section, but also his intensity; It was hard going back out there to hit after waiting for a while. I was not as pumped up as I was originally and just couldn’t get it going again.”
The other finalists included Jaff Decker, a junior from Peoria, AZ, and Frank Florio of Long Valley, NJ. Both left-handed hitters, Decker and Florio, who has committed to Stetson University, finished in a tie for 4th place as each hit 6 home runs in the finals. Decker finished second to Patterson in the overall home run total (21) due to his impressive 15 homer first round. Florio’s first round mirrored Zarraga’s as he recovered from a slow start with the wood bat to hit 11 home runs with the aluminum, including five consecutive at one point.
Other Finals highlights included Michael Dixon almost hitting the leftfield light tower with his 502 ft. blast. Dixon just missed qualifying for the finals with 10 home runs. John Hinson (committed to Clemson University) of Ashville, NC was second only to Patterson with the wood bat (6 home runs) and finished in 7th place with 9 total home runs. Stefan Wagner from Fremont, NH, hit a homer on his first swing with a wood bat and tied with A.J. Regoli (committed to University of South Florida) of Lake Worth, FL with the third longest home run (486 ft).
While not all participants were happy with their performance, there is no doubt that all 20 players enjoyed the experience. It exceeded my expectations, remarked Michael Olszyk of Hamden, MA. The youngest player at only sixteen, Olszyk asserted the Showcase gave him more confidence. These are some of the best players in the country, so I know if I can compete with them I can compete with anyone.
John Hinson’s father, J.D. thinks the Showcase is a great opportunity for players from different backgrounds to come together and compete in a relaxed, fun atmosphere. â€œWith players from 13 states and 2 international countries, there are a lot of different backgrounds and cultures represented here, but the players all share the love of baseball and are looking to have a good time. Besides, it is not important what the boys do here, but what they have done to get here. To be on the website and be considered some of the top players around is something they should all be proud of.
Javier Hernandez, Coach of Puerto Rico’s Youth National Team, echoed Mr. Hinson’s comments when he said, â€œmy players, Samuel Marrero and Neftali Soto, are very proud to come to the United States and represent our small island in this important showcase.
The appropriately named Homer Moncreif, father of Carlos Moncreif from Jackson, MS, agrees, I am just proud that my son is a part of the Showcase. It is a great feeling to see all of his effort paid off with a trip to the National Finals
So while only two participants went home with some awards, all 20 players went home happy with some new friends, increased confidence, and the knowledge that they made history by participating in the Inaugural Power Showcase High School Home Run Derby National Finals.