PORT ANGELES — The Lefties’ Ron Brown put on an epic power display triumphing in a round of extra swings to beat out Corvallis’ Cody Hawkins in a Saltwater Splashdown home run derby at Hollywood Beach that mirrored the drama of Bryce Harper’s win in the MLB home run derby going on almost at the exact same time 3,000 miles away.
As several hundred people and a few MLB scouts, watched from the beach and from City Pier, Brown and nine other competitors put dozens of balls deep into Port Angeles Harbor off a barge Monday night as part of the West Coast League’s All-Star festivities in Port Angeles.
“That was fun, I’ve never been in anything like that,” the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Brown said after narrowly beating out Corvallis’ Cody Hawken, a 6-3, 200-pounder himself, who gave him everything he could handle in the swingoff.
For his efforts, Brown, a sophomore-to-be at his hometown University of Houston, was awarded an autographed bat by Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts.
Hawken, who plays for the University of Portland, for one, wasn’t displeased with his very close second-place finish.
“This is what you dream about as a kid,” Hawken said.
Lefties co-owner Matt Acker said it was a great crowd. The pleasant weather was perfect. Not only were there no clouds, there was no wind to chill people, or cause waves that would disrupt the batting barge.
“Great crowd. We appreciate the support,” Acker said. “All being said and done, it went well.”
“We’re excited [about the All-Star game Tuesday], everyone’s in town having a good time,” Acker said.
Brown, a pitcher and first baseman who has four home runs in 42 at-bats for the Lefties this summer, not only hit the most home runs out of the “park,” which was actually a boom floating out in the harbor a couple of hundred feet from shore to signify a “fence,” his home runs traveled higher and farther than any of the other combatants.
The dimensions of the boom definitely favored right-handed hitters like Hawkins and Brown. Left field was perhaps a couple of hundred feet from the barge, while right field was much, much farther and the left-handed pull hitters simply couldn’t reach the home run line.
As a small army of kayakers worked hard to collect the special balls with a higher degree of buyoancy, the biggest sluggers in the West Coast League whaled away at batting practice pitches.
“Yeah, I’m going to be sore tomorrow. Boy, I’m tired,” said kayaking volunteer Kathy Hough after she paddled to shore.
Brown, competing in the West Coast League’s North Division, won the initial round of the derby with 21 home runs over the boom, some of them a good 20 or 30 yards over, narrowly edging out Mike James of the Bellingham Bells, who hit 20.
Hawken, competing the South Division, won his division with 13 HRs.
“That short porch in left field was really friendly,” Brown said. “Once we got a rhythm going, it felt really good.”
Brown got the biggest cheers of the night, being part of the hometown Lefties.
“I love the people out here. I love playing for them. I never hit into the water before, this is amazing,” Brown said.
In the second round, pitting Brown versus Hawken in the mano-a-mano faceoff much like Harper and Kyle Schwarber did in D.C., the two batters had five outs to hit as many home runs they could. An out was any ball that didn’t go over the boom.
Hawken set the tone with 10 home runs over the boom before he made his fifth out. He had Brown on the ropes, who had only only five home runs with just one out remaining. Brown rallied with five straight home runs to tie Hawkins, but couldn’t seal the deal as he made his fifth out with the swingoff tied 10-10.
After a short consultation to figure out a way to break the tie, each batter was given five swings, period. Whoever had the most home runs after five swings would be the winner.
Hawken again established a tough standard to beat, knocking out four home runs in five swings.
Brown suddenly had trouble pulling the ball. He hit not one, not two, but three high pop ups to center. All three of them barely cleared the boom by less than 10 feet.
“I’m standing there, saying, ‘oh, please go out’,” Brown said of his popup home runs.
In the end, Brown hit a no-doubter to deep left well over the boom to win and the Mookie Betts bat was his. As was a place in Port Angeles and Lefties lore for some time to come.