SAN DIEGO—After hitting his third home run, Michael Chavis was locked in a three-way tie in the Rawlings Home Run Challenge at the Perfect Game All-American Classic with three outs left.
“When I hit that third home run, I had to step out of the box because I got a little nervous and started getting the jitters,” Chavis said. “We had a great meeting earlier about keeping your mind controlled, so I stepped out took a big breath and relaxed my hands.”
Chavis crushed the next pitch into the trees well beyond the left-field fence at beautiful new Fowler Park at the University of San Diego to become the Rawlings Home Run Challenge champion. First baseman Justin Bellinger (Mass.) and outfielder Reese Cooley (Fla.) finished tied for second place.
On size alone, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Chavis was an interloper amongst the final eight contestants that were all 6-foot-2 or taller. But the line-drive oriented Chavis has some of the best bat speed in the 2014 class and was able to alter his approach because of what he learned at a prior home run derby.
“I hit a lot of line drives because I am not really a big dude,” Chavis said. “I was at the home run derby at PG National and I ended up hitting too many line drives. I only ended up hitting two home runs. So I came into this thinking I need to get under the ball a little more and getting a little more torque, so I added a leg kick into my swing. I tried to get under the ball and it all worked out.”
A few of Chavis’ first home runs were frozen ropes that his raw strength turned into home runs. But Chavis’ final home run was a more traditional fence clearer.
“My last one was more of like a home run derby home run,” Chavis said. “I tried to get under the ball a little more and get a little more backspin.”
The shot had a majestic trajectory and landed atop the nearly 30-foot trees beyond the left-center wall.
The Clemson commit from Sprayberry High, Marietta, Ga., is a toolsy infielder with above-average speed, one of the better infield arms in the class and a glove capable of making highlight reel plays.
Bellinger, a 6-foot-5, 238-pound first baseman committed to Vanderbilt from St. Sebastians, Weston, Mass., had the farthest hit ball of the final round. The lefthanded hitter crushed a shot to right field that landed on top of a dormitory, which is estimated to be at least 40 feet high and 430 feet away from home plate.
Cooley, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound outfielder with above-average power and speed from Fleming Island High, Orange Park, Fla., showed impressive bat speed and had three pull-side home runs down the left-field line.
The five other contestants in the final round that emerged from the field of 50 were:
Alex Jackson, c/of, Rancho Bernardo Escondido, Calif.
Jon Littell, of, Stillwater (Okla.)
Michael Gettys, of/rhp, Gainesville (Ga.)
Braxton Davidson, 1b/of, Roberson High, Asheville, N.C.
Kel Johnson, 1b/of, Homeschooled, Palmetto, Ga.