PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles manager Darren Westergard has said Lefties’ home run derby representative “Downtown” Ron Brown possesses enough power to hit a baseball all the way to Victoria.
Brown, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 258 pounds, will get the chance to slug one across the Strait of Juan de Fuca tonight when he and 10 other West Coast League players will participate in the first ever Saltwater Splashdown home run derby as part of the WCL’s All-Star Game festivities.
Rather than bashing baseballs over the fence at Civic Field, site of Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, home run derby participants will blast away from a barge on Port Angeles Harbor just off Hollywood Beach.
Tonight’s home run derby is the main event of a City Pier-centered All-Star celebration. The festivities are free and open to the public.
A beer garden will begin serving beverages at 4 p.m., music by Port Angeles band Crushwater is expected to begin at 4:45 p.m., with the derby beginning at 6:30 p.m. followed by more music from another Port Angeles-based band, The Terps.
The home run derby will even provide a little bit of practice for an anchored containment boom. Normally used to keep oil spills from spreading, the floating line will be anchored in place and serve as the home run fence. Kayakers are expected to collect the batted balls on either side of the fence.
Exact dimensions weren’t available, but Lefties general manager Ryan Hickey said derby participants will face typical ballpark distances.
“We won’t know that until we set it up, but it will mirror a standard outfield fence,” Hickey said. “It will be closer down the lines and deeper to center [field].”
The Saltwater Splashdown is said to be the first-such event of its kind conducted on saltwater.
“I’ve attended many of MLB’s Home Run Derbies and, just being honest here, most of them were largely snooze fests. So I was thrilled when told of Port Angeles’s plans this year. A Splash Fest in the Strait of Juan de Fuca? I don’t ever wanna go back!,” said WCL commissioner Rob Neyer.
In 2016, the Northwoods League, another summer collegiate wood bat league, held a home run derby in Kenosha, Wisc., from a barge located on Lake Michigan.
That event was deemed a huge success with the Kenosha News calculating attendance at more than 3,000 people.
Rules for the derby are simple.
North Division players, including Brown, will hit first.
Each player gets 10 outs and the batter with the most home runs is the North winner.
The same format applies for the South All-Stars.
In the final round, the North winner will face the South winner and each player will receive 10 outs. Whoever hits the most homers in the final round will be declared the winner.
Brown has four home runs in 42 at-bats this summer for Port Angeles, including a mammoth blast on the road at Story Field in Longview.
“Dead center its about 400 feet to the barn, their hitting cage,” Lefties manager Darren Westergard said. The wind is blowing straight in, the [American] flag is blowing straight in on us and he hits it halfway up over these light poles up over the barn in center field. I grew up in Centralia, I’ve played tons of games there and I’ve never seen a ball hit like that.”
Westergard estimated the moon shot may have traveled 500 feet.
Hickey also was at that game in Longview and was chatting with Cowlitz owner Tony Bonnacci when Brown went deep.
“He told me that was the longest home run he’d ever seen hit out of Story Field,” Hickey said.
“And Ron has hit the roof of the red house across the street from Civic Field [left field] with a homer.
“He can flat-out crush the baseball.”
The other Saltwater Splashdown participants are:
• Bellingham Bells: Matt James of Notre Dame
• Bend Elks: Tynan Holmstrom of Union College
• Corvallis Knights: Cody Hawken of Portland
• Cowlitz Black Bears: Ryan Kim of Portland
• Kelowna Falcons: Trent Tinglestad of Louisiana-Monroe
• Portland Pickles: Joey Cooper of Cal State Northridge
• Victoria HarbourCats: Jeddediah Fagg of Georgia Southern
• Walla Walla Sweets: Zack Penrod of Northwest Nazarene
• Wenatchee AppleSox: Jeremy Yelland of Hawaii
• Yakima Valley Pippins: Cole Pofek of UC Riverside