Baseball: Spanish Fork slugger 2nd in Triple-A Derby
Kayden Porter was all hyped-up smiles. Wide-eyed and trembling with excitement, Porter was awash with pride with good reason. The Spanish Fork High School star nearly bested the professionals who came to Salt Lake City for the Triple-A Home Run Derby.
Stefan Gartrell of the Gwinnett Braves won the contest.
Porter finished second. However, the 2011 Utah Gatorade Player of the Year made a slew of new fans from among the 9,183 spectators at Spring Mobile Ballpark. They were won over by Porter's long, towering bomb that cleared the 40-foot high batter's eye located more than 420 feet from home plate.
The Titanic blast came during the third and final round of Monday's long-ball extravaganza.
"It was crazy," said Porter, who will be a senior for the Dons next season. "It was the biggest fan-based thing I've ever done. I don't know how many were here, but it felt like a million people.
"I was actually hoping one of the guys would have thrown a wood bat for me to use. [The Triple-A] guys were really great. Even Gartrell had my back."
Of course, Porter used a metal bat. Yet, even Gartrell, who swatted seven dingers in the final round to Porter's five, was impressed.
"When I was 18, I couldn't do that," Gartrell said. "I was trying to give him as much props as possible. He's got lot of pop. I was proud of [Porter]. I just met him, but I was proud of him."
No doubt, there was plenty of muscle on display as six Triple-A professionals and two Utah high school athletes competed for the $500 winner's check.
"When it became possible that I could win, that's when it became competitive," Gartrell said. " 'Hey, I could win this thing.' "
The night that included live music and fireworks began with former Atlanta Braves outfielder Dale Murphy taking the "first swing." He took a bit of ribbing for allowing four pitches to pass by before grounding one toward third.
"I couldn't see them," said Murphy, who gave the winner a signed 1980s Braves jersey.
Bryan LaHair of the Iowa Cubs, Trayvon Robinson of the Albuquerque Isotopes and Jeff Baisley of the Salt Lake Bees competed for the Pacific Coast League. Mauro Gomez and Stefan Gartrell of the Gwinnett Braves, and Dayan Viciedo of the Charlotte Knights represented the International League in advance of Wednesday's Triple-A All-Star Game.
Sam Hall of Bonneville High competed for the PCL.
Porter, Gomez, Baisley and Gartrell advanced to the second round.
"It was awesome," said Kevin Arendse, one of two catchers who saw the power exhibition from the best seat in the house.
As for the Baisley, after a slow start, he hit four dingers in the first round. The Bees third baseman couldn't add to his total in the second.
"It was fun," he said. "It was also tougher [than normal batting practice]. I wasn't picky enough, I guess. But it was fun."
Fun, sure. Yet, eventually each player's naturally competitive personalty took over. Gartrell pumped his fist when his last two homers cleared the fence.
Gartrell, a self-described goofball, was still feeling tired after his flight touched down in Salt Lake City at 1:30 p.m. By the second round, the ball was flying out of Spring Mobile.
"I can see how it be exciting to play here," Gartrell said about Salt Lake City's thin air. "This would be a nice place to play."