By IAN WILSON
As legendary Home Run Derby broadcaster Chris Berman famously said: “Back! Back! Back! Back! Back! Back … Gone!”
Details of the derby from the 2022 Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) All-Star Game festivities have left the ballpark in Okotoks, including a list of the sluggers who will be competing in the long ball event, and a first look at the starting lineups for the big game.
Similar to the Major League Baseball (MLB) Home Run Derby which took place recently, each player in the first round will have a three-minute time block for swatting long balls that includes a 30-second time-out.
In the event of a tie-breaker, the nod will be given to the hitter who had the fastest time for clubbing his first homer in round one.
Both divisions – East and West – will be represented by four players, with a total of eight competitors vying for home run supremacy.
The batter with the most homers from the first round will advance and represent his division in the second round.
Tie-breakers in the final round include an overtime period of two minutes that includes no time-out. If double-overtime is necessary, finalists will have an additional one-minute of time to go yard. If that doesn’t solve things, the heavy hitters will advance to a sudden-death “hack off” – each player will get one hack until one of the two players does not hit a home run.
Pitchers for the derby at Seaman Stadium – which measures 330 feet down the left-field line, 400 feet to center, and 325 feet from home plate at the right-field foul pole – will be chosen from the East and West Division coaching staffs.
MEET THE DERBY CONTESTANTS
The East Division will be represented by the following batters:
- Outfielder Nate Bach, Regina Red Sox, 6 HR, 9 doubles, 37 RBI in 43 games
- Outfielder Nate Mensik, Moose Jaw Miller Express, 9 HR, 8 doubles, 36 RBI in 43 games
- Outfielder Braden Desonia, Medicine Hat Mavericks, 5 HR, 9 doubles, 30 RBI in 42 games
- First baseman Nolan Machibroda, Weyburn Beavers, 6 HR, 13 doubles, 34 RBI in 42 games
The West Division will be represented by these sluggers:
- First baseman McCoy Pearce, Okotoks Dawgs, 5 HR, 10 doubles, 29 RBI in 31 games
- Outfielder Matt Wolff, Brooks Bombers, 6 HR, 7 doubles, 25 RBI in 42 games
- Outfielder Jordan Phillips, Edmonton Prospects, 0 HR, 8 doubles, 18 RBI in 34 games
- Outfielder Kaden Zarowny, Sylvan Lake Gulls, 4 HR, 9 doubles, 24 RBI in 34 games
Mensik leads all WCBL batters in homers with nine this season and the Nebraska product is also top three in the league in hits and RBI.
Bach, out of Boulder, Colorado, is Regina’s team leader in hits, round trippers and runs batted in.
DeSonia, meanwhile, is tops the WCBL in stolen bases, with 27 swipes. The native of Spokane, Washington has only been caught stealing four times this summer.
“I’ve never really been a big like home run guy,” DeSonia told the Medicine Hat News about the derby.
“It’ll be interesting to try, I’m just gonna have fun, try to have a good time.”
Machibroda hails from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and his playing days with the Beavers date back to 2018. The veteran has played over 80 games for Weyburn in the WCBL.
Pearce – a Kamloops native who won a Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC) title with the Okanagan Coyotes earlier this year – participated in the 2019 Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game in Edmonton when he was a member of the Brooks Bombers.
Wolff leads the circuit’s most painful statistical category – the Indiana product has been hit by pitches 28 times this summer, more than double the number of times the next most beaned batter has been plunked.
Phillips has not sent a baseball over the outfield wall yet this season, but the Prospect still has some pop in his bat. At Taft College in 2021-22, he smacked seven homers and 16 doubles in 40 games.
Zarowny isn’t a member of the Okotoks Dawgs this summer, but he has been in the past, both with Dawgs Academy and the summer collegiate squad in 2021. The Strathmore, Alberta product been a key contributor to Sylvan Lake’s offence this year.
The starting lineups for each division have also been announced:
The home crowd at Seaman Stadium will have plenty of Okotoks Dawgs players to get the crowd excited.
The Dawgs have five hitters in the West Division starting lineup, including leadoff batter Brendan Luther (.342 average, 27 RBI, 10 stolen bases), centre fielder Micah McDowell (.373 average, 19 stolen bases) in the three hole and Pearce (.358 average, 20 runs) batting cleanup as the designated hitter. Rounding out the locals are the five and six hitters – first baseman Noah Geekie (.344 average, 23 runs, 10 steals) and catcher Jacob Morrow (.276 average, 22 RBI).
Batting second is right fielder Zarowny, a Dawgs Academy grad who suited up for the Okotoks Dawgs Black last season before heading north to play for Sylvan Lake. With the Gulls, Zarowny has a .316 batting average, 24 runs, four homers, 24 RBI and seven steals through 34 games.
Wolff is slotted to start at third base and hit seventh. With the Bombers, he’s hitting .349 with 41 runs.
Left fielder Brad Goodwin (.298 average, 16 runs, three home runs) of the Lethbridge Bulls follows Wolff, and second baseman Charlie Towers is batting ninth. Towers, out of Toronto, has played 40 games for the Fort McMurray Giants, where he’s contributed 28 runs and five stolen bases.
Getting the start on the mound is Japanese righthander Wataru Murakami. This summer with the Prospects, the 5-foot-9 hurler is 4-1 with a 2.58 earned run average (ERA), one save and 49 strikeouts in 48.2 innings of WCBL action.
The starting pitcher for the East All-Stars is Preston Tenney, a Colorado product with the Regina Red Sox. The righty is 2-2 with a 2.18 ERA and 40 Ks in 33 innings.
Swinging atop the batting order is the speedy outfielder DeSonia, who is batting .329 with 42 runs.
Mike Kenney, the WCBL batting average leader (.404 in 32 games with the Red Sox), will handle centre field duties and bat second.
Hitting third is Machibroda of the Beavers. The first baseman has a .305 batting average, six homers, 34 RBI and 34 runs so far.
The cleanup slot belongs to Bach, a well-rounded backstop with Regina who has five swiped bags and 36 runs scored.
Mensik, the long-ball leader heading into the break, will play in right field and bat fifth while representing the Miller Express. He’ll be followed in the batting order by his Moose Jaw teammate, the designated hitter Bryan Reyes (.370 average, 39 RBI, 37 runs, 11 doubles).
Batting seventh is third sacker Logan Grant (.271 average, 21 RBI, 26 runs) of the Swift Current 57’s.
Rounding out the East Division starting lineup are Red Sox shortstop Zane Zielinski (26 runs, 18 RBI, 13 stolen bases) and second baseman Kellen Williamson (.311 average, 39 runs, 17 stolen bases) of the Mavs.
OTHER ALL-STAR GAME DETAILS
Some fun facts about the East and West rosters – they include 25 Canadians, 38 Americans and one Japanese player. Six Canadian provinces, including 10 athletes from Alberta, and 20 U.S. states are represented by the selections.
In terms of uniforms, the West Division representatives will wear white pants with their typical home-field jersey and a red West All-Star ballcap. The East Division players will be decked out in their away tops, grey pants and black East All-Star hats.
If the All-Star Game is tied at the end of nine innings, a runner will start on second base during the 10th inning. That runner will be the last out of the ninth inning.
The 2022 WCBL All-Star Game & Home Run Derby takes place at Seaman Stadium in Okotoks on Saturday, July 23rd. The derby is set to start at 5 p.m. and the game will get going at 7:05 p.m. Festivities will include fireworks, music and autograph sessions with former MLB player Matt Stairs.
If you can’t make it in-person, the festivities will be broadcast on HomeTeam Live starting at 4:45pm. Watch here.