SAN DIEGO—Francisco Lindor hit just one home run this season for his high school team at Florida's Montverde Academy.
"I'm not a power hitter and I probably won't become one," said the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Lindor.
He certainly looked like one Saturday at the University of San Diego's Cunningham Stadium. This weekend's festivities for Sunday's Aflac All-American Baseball Game include a home run derby. Lindor, like every other hitter in the game, had an opportunity to step to the plate. Never mind that most of the players hit at least five homers for their high school team this season. In fact, five of the competitors reached double digits.
Aflac home run derby finalists (L to R) Christian Lopes, Josh Tobias, Francisco Lindor and Travis Harrison. Sandy Huffaker Jr./Aflac All-American photo
Lindor outmuscled them all, hitting four homers to advance to the derby finals, which will precede Sunday's game. Infielder Christian Lopes (Edison High, Huntington Beach, Calif.) had three homers and infielders Travis Harrison (Tustin High, Aliso Viejo, Calif.) and Josh Tobias (Southeast Guilford High, Greensboro, N.C.) had two apiece to round out the derby finals foursome. No one else hit more than one homer before recording 10 outs (anything that wasn't a homer was an out).
Lindor succeeded with an unusual strategy — he didn't swing for the fences.
"I'm able to drive the ball wherever I want to," said Lindor. "I just try to hit line drives. If it's a homer, it's a homer."
Lindor said his target was the 375 sign located on the fence in left-center. He placed a pair of homers over the sign and curled in a couple more not far from the left-field pole.
Consistently squaring up on the ball is key, which is why Lindor proudly pointed to the barrel of his bat. There were just two marks on it, where he had made contact over and over.
One pitcher snuck into the competition — Henry Owens (Edison High, Huntington Beach, Calif.), who tried to disguise himself as a power hitter. Taped across the back of the 6-foot-7 Owens' warmup jacket was "Griffey Jr." Owens batted lefthanded and he wore his cap turned around backward. But those were the only similarities to the great Griffey.
Owens tossed his ballcap after fouling a pitch off for his third out. He cracked a bat on his fifth out. Two teammates came out to towel him off and give him a cup of water after his eighth out. Owens tried to Fisk a ball fair on his next swing, but it stayed foul for his ninth out. He was done one swing later with no homers to show for the effort.
"Just trying to have some fun out there," said Owens.
Seems like he will get more enjoyment on the mound than at the plate.