SALEM, Va.—How often can a man named Sicnarf Loopstok hit 44 home runs in a home run derby and be the third story from that home run derby?
When the Salem Red Sox hosted the Carolina League home run derby on Monday night, the concern was would anyone be able to put on a show at a ballpark where it’s very difficult to hit home runs. The park has a very high, almost Green Monster-esque wall ringing the entire outfield, turning home runs into long double and triples in games. In a home run derby, it makes clearing the fence truly challenging.
They need not have worried. Now the legitimate worry is how can the Carolina League All-Star Game on Tuesday night top what was a truly fascinating home run derby?
For the record, the Brewers’ Jake Gatewood edged Loopstok for the home run derby crown with a mammoth power display.
But for the fans, for the players, for everyone in attendance, what will probably be remembered for years to come is that Cubs top prospect Eloy Jimenez showed true light-tower power.
The 6-foot-4 righthanded slugger was squaring off against Gatewood in the semifinals. He didn’t manage to top Gatewood in total home runs (Gatewood’s 13 home runs in that round topped Jimenez’s eight). But he hit the home run everyone will remember as he managed to bust a bulb in the stadium lights that sit high above the left field wall.
Some of the grounds crew wondered if that was a 450-foot-plus blast. Gatewood wondered where it would have landed if it hadn’t hit the tower.
“Eloy. When have you ever seen a ball hit that far? That ball was still going up when it hit the lights,” Gatewood said as he shook his head, seemingly in awe. “That guy has some sick power.”
Jimenez said it was the first time he’d ever managed to hit a stadium light. “Hey it’s not my fault,” he joked as some suggested he owed the Salem Red Sox a new light.
Jimenez had already been in the news earlier on Monday as he was rumored to be the necessary trade chip if the Cubs want to deal for Rays righthander Chris Archer. Jimenez’s power display is a reminder why the Cubs, who traded Gleyber Torres last year to land closer Aroldis Chapman, have to think long and hard before trading Jimenez, too. He is one of the best prospects in the minors, with massive power and impressive hitting ability.
Gatewood put on an impressive performance of his own, hitting home runs in bunches, many of which landed far beyond the left field wall. This was nothing new for Gatewood. The summer before Gatewood’s senior year of high school, Gatewood won MLB’s high school home run derby, earning him a chance to take swings during the MLB All-Star Game home run derby.
Gatewood actually watched some of his high school MLB home run derby as he prepped for Monday’s contest. “I watched it. I was a toothpick soaking wet swinging like crazy,” he said. “This was awesome. This feels just as good as the other one.”
As good as Gatewood was, Loopstock may have been even better. The home runs reset after each round, so Loopstock ended up a close second despite hitting the most home runs overall. At times, Loopstock was hitting home runs so rapidly that his first was still in the air as he launched the next.
Here’s a longer version of Eloy Jimenez’s power binge for those who like to watch home runs.