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Showcase  | Story  | 6/17/2012

Tellez claims Rawlings Challenge

Nick Kappel      Kira Olsen     
Photo: Perfect Game

MINNEAPOLIS – Twenty One players were selected by the Perfect Game staff to participate in the Rawlings Home Run Challenge at the Metrodome Saturday night. Southern California commit Rowdy Tellez (Elk Grove HS, Elk Grove, Calif.) out-slugged Georgia commit Clint Frazier (Loganville HS, Loganville, Ga.) 5-3 in the finals to win the derby title.

The event included two rounds. Each player was allowed 10 outs per round.

Andrew Dunlap (Westbury Christian HS, Houston, Texas) led off the event with three home runs.

Hitting home runs in the Metrodome was awesome,” Dunlap said. “Hits sound like a gun went off.”

Cord Sandberg (Manatee HS, Bradenton, Fla.), Dominic Smith (Serra HS, Los Angeles, Calif.), Ryan Sullivan (Hopkinton HS, Hopkinton, Mass.) and Leury Vargas (Haina, Dominican Republic) also hit three home runs in the first round. Sandberg and Vargas each reached the upper deck in right field, while Smith launched a ball off the suites in right.

To hit three in the Metrodome is a pretty cool feeling,” Sandberg said. “The bat felt awesome. The (Rawlings) silver VELO, it’s definitely got some pop. I liked that one the best.”

It was a little bit more relaxed than I thought it would be,” Sullivan said. “I was just trying to see the pitch and hit it. I liked (the bat) a lot. It’s different than most, it has a little bit more pop to it. There’s a different sound coming off of it.”

When asked if he’d consider using the same bat next year, Sullivan smiled and replied, “Yes I would.”

Other participants included: Justin Williams (Terrebonne HS, Houma, La.), Francis Christy (Casa Grande HS, Petaluma, Calif.), Travis Demeritte (Winder Barrow HS, Statham, Ga.), Reese McGuire (Kentwood HS, Kent, Wash.) and Austin Meadows (Grayson HS, Grayson, Ga.).

As Meadows finished his turn and walked toward the dugout, Demeritte joked, “Welcome to the no bomb club.”

Cavan Biggio (St. Thomas HS, Houston, Texas), son of likely Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, hit two home runs, including one that went over the press box in right field.

I felt good,” Biggio said. “You just have to get one and I got two, so I’m excited about that. (I was using) a good bat. I’m going to Virginia and they’re sponsored by Rawlings so I’m excited to use them.

Biggio’s two home runs in the derby came just a few hours after he whacked the event’s first home run in game action.

Nathaniel Maggio (Blessed Trinity HS, Alpharetta, Ga.) was one of four players to reach the upper deck in right field.

I feel pretty good about that,” Maggio said. “(Rawlings makes) a good bat. It’s top heavy but it’s good when you get the barrel on it.”

Zack Collins (American Heritage HS, Pembroke Pines, Fla.) homered twice in the event. One of his homers rattled into the right-center field press box, another bounced off the façade in right.

Kevin Franklin (Gahr HS, Cerritos, Calif.), Dane McFarland (JSerra Catholic HS, Laguna Niguel, Calif.), Will Haynie (Brentwood Academy, Nashville, Tenn.) and Nicholas Banks (Tomball HS, Tomball, Texas) each homered twice. Ronnie Healy (Jupiter HS, Jupiter, Fla.) also homered in the derby.

Christopher Rivera (El Dorado HS, Fullerton, Calif.) finished third in the first round with four home runs, all with nine outs.

(It’s) a lot of pressure but you know it’s a lot of fun too,” Rivera said. “I liked the (Rawlings) bat. It has a lot of pop compared to the other bats so I’ll probably think about using that next season.”

Frazier and Tellez put on impressive hitting displays in the first round. Frazier hit six bombs to left-center and left field, one of which landed about 20 rows up.

I felt pretty good going in, but it took me a minute to find my groove,” Frazier said. I couldn’t seem to get (any hits) out to left-center, so I just tried to go dead pull and get under it a little bit. It felt pretty good.”

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound left-handed hitting Tellez was the final batter of the first round. He started slow but got into a groove, launching seven monster shots to right field. One of the homers bounced off the scoreboard above the press box in right-center, a shot that Tellez estimated at 450 feet. Two more of his homers reached the upper deck—one sailed over the entrance to section 213 down the right field line.

The players on the field hooted and hollered as Tellez launched home run after home run and each congratulated him with high-fives after his final out.

This isn’t my first home run derby,” Tellez said with a grin between rounds.

In fact, he won one last year with his high school team and finished second in another. He once hit a home run that sailed over a two-story house behind his high school field, which his coaches estimated at 490 feet.

In the finals, Frazier hit two more home runs—giving him a total of eight—an impressive feat considering only Tellez hit more than four.

Tellez continued to wow his peers in the finals, smacking a total of five homers. One of them reached the upper deck in right field, raising his upper deck total on the night to four. He stepped out of the batter’s box after his title-clinching third bomb, only to have the players on the field encourage him to keep going.

This was crazy,” Tellez said after having his picture taken with Frazier, Rawlings representative Kyle Murphy and his new Rawlings Home Run Derby trophy. Everybody (here) is challenging you. You get this opportunity to come out here and you’ve got to take advantage of it. I still have the games left (two on Sunday, one Monday) so we’ll see how those go.”

This was the fifth Rawlings-sponsored Home Run Derby at the PG National Showcase. Tellez joins previous winners Jonathan Singelton (2008), Justin O’Conner (2009), Joshua Tobias (2010) and C.J. Hinojosa (2011).