BOSTON—There can be no doubt. Paul Hoilman is college baseball's home run king.
"If you want to write it that way, you can," Hoilman said. "I'll take it."
The hulking East Tennessee State slugger finished his junior year with 25 home runs—two shy of national leader Jordan Ribera of Fresno State.
Hoilman has since gotten the better of Ribera in two televised home run derbies—first at Rosenblatt Stadium on July 7, then again at Fenway Park in the home run hitting contest before the Cape Cod League all-star game. He also beat Pacific-10 Conference home run champ Ricky Oropesa in both contests.
Hoilman hit two home runs over Fenway Park's Green Monster in the first round to advance to the championship round against Oropesa (two homers in first round) and Coastal Carolina's Daniel Bowman (six). Hoilman hit three homers in the championship round to take the title, edging Oropesa (two).
At Rosenblatt, Hoilman had blasted five homers in the first round and 12 in the championship round. But that was with metal bats; this contest was with wood bats.
"It was a lot tougher here than at Omaha with the metal," Hoilman said. "I'd say it's more rewarding with wood, swinging against the Cape guys . . . I'm not calling myself the defending champ or anything, but to kind of have that target—a lot of these guys were there—Ribera, Oropesa, they were in Omaha. They're great guys, we had a lot of fun there, a lot of fun here. It's a great feeling."
Bowman, the top prospect in the Valley League last summer, put on a show in the first round, hitting two balls clear over the Green Monster seats, another off the Sports Authority sign behind the Monster seats, and two off the light standard atop the wall. Hoilman, by contrast, hit a pair of modest homers into the Monster seats in the first round, during which each contestant had eight outs.
But Bowman went homerless in the next round, which consisted of five outs. The lefthanded Oropesa hit two, including one mammoth shot over the bullpen in right-center. Hoilman homered twice in his first three swings of the second round, including a monstrous shot clear over the Monster seats for his second homer.
"That was a good one. That one felt good," Hoilman said. "The other ones were just enough, but that was a good one.
"I grew up my whole life seeing (the Green Monster) on TV, and just to be here… I was really glad to hit one over it. I remember back in the day (in 1999), the home run derby here with (Mark) McGwire and (Sammy) Sosa, they were hitting them over the lights. I was hoping to at least scrape something near there."
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Hoilman was down to his final out when he hit the decisive homer of the final round, just over the Monster down the left-field line. That gave him a second win over Oropesa and Ribera (who went homerless in the first round) in a homer-hitting contest this month, but Hoilman admitted he had the edge at Fenway against the two lefthanded hitters.
"It's definitely an advantage for the righties here," Hoilman said. "I'm not going to say that was necessarily a fair matchup facing Ribera and those lefties here today. That's a bomb (over the right-field fence). This (pointing to the Monster) is just more hitting it high enough."
Despite his All-America junior season, Hoilman wasn't drafted until the 49th round this spring, by the Rays. In front of a gaggle of scouting heavyweights sitting behind home plate, Hoilman might have helped himself Wednesday.
If the Rays don't sign him before the Aug. 16 deadline, he will return to East Tennessee State for his senior year. That's not such a bad thing for the academic-minded Hoilman, who said he has a 3.95 grade-point average. In fact, that might be a major reason he lasted so long in the draft.
"A lot of scouts I talk to, the first thing they say to me is, 'You going to med school?' " Hoilman said. "So I've got that hanging over my head. I'd been planning on it, but I think it's a no-brainer whether I go do this or study for four more years."
Hitting home runs must simply be more fun than hitting the books.
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