CHICAGO—Jacob Gatewood and Chase Vallot, who have both won home run derbies this summer in big league stadiums, emerged from a field of eight Saturday to reach the finals of the Under Armour All-America Game Home Run Derby. Gatewood hit all three of his home runs in the final round out of Wrigley Stadium and onto Waveland Avenue to emerge victorious.
Both sluggers are from small towns—Gatewood is from Clovis, Calif., and Vallot is from Youngsville, La., (which has a population of 8,000)—but have performed on the biggest stages this summer. Vallot won the Rawlings Home Run Challenge in the Metrodome at Perfect Game National in June. Gatewood gained a national recognition by hitting 14 home runs at the MLB Junior Select Home Run Derby in front of a sold-out crowd at Citi Field during the MLB All-Star Game in July.
“Being in the Home Run Derby in Citi Field helped out a lot because it helped me to learn to pace myself and knowing when I am on a roll,” Gatewood said.
Gatewood took more pitches than at Citi Field, some times as many as four between swings, and had extroverted Lee’s Summit West (Mo.) outfielder Monte Harrison bring him Gatorade after an eight-swing, seven-out stretch before hitting his third home run with one out left.
The athletic 6-foot-4, 190-pound righthanded hitting Gatewood hit the most home runs of any hitter in the preliminary round (six), during which the players were given eight outs. The pull-oriented Southern California commit hit all six to left field and left-center. He just missed an opposite field home run to straightaway right field that hit halfway up the Wrigley Field ivy.
Vallot, a strongly built 5-foot-11, 221-pound Mississippi State commit, made a tactical decision to save his energy for the final round. After hitting enough home runs in the preliminary to qualify for the finals, Vallot chose to end his round early. Vallot finished one home run shy of Gatewood in the finals after hitting a ball off the left-field wall and pushing a few others with home run distance to the wrong side of the left-field foul pole.
The six other derby contestants were outfielder Michael Gettys (Gainsville, Ga., HS); catcher Alex Jackson (Rancho Bernardo HS, Escondido, Calif.) and 2015 class outfielder Ryan Johnson (College Station, Texas, HS) for the American squad. The National team’s representatives were 2015 outfielder Daz Cameron (Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, McDonough, Ga.); infielder Luke Dykstra (Westlake HS, Thousand Oaks, Calif.,) and righthander/DH Grant Holmes (Conway, S.C., HS). These eight emerged from the preliminary round, which included the full field of 38 players, during Friday’s evaluation day at the University of Illinois-Chicago.