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2003 MWBL CHRISTMAS CLASSIC

For Immediate Release
December 24th, 2003

Hawaii Big Mac was no doubt lying on a California beach somewhere. Junior? His pulled hamstring, muscle kept him out of the First Annual MWBL Christmas Classic Home Run Derby.
Alex Rodriguez — uh, don’t ask. And Barry, well, he’s was the 2003 MWBL season leader but didn’t make a good showing in this year’s Derby.
So there we all were the night before Christmas, 42,000 people hanging out at a whole different kind of Home Run Derby, in Hawaii on Christmas Eve.  A Home Run Derby with some of the biggest bashers in the Mid-West Baseball League. A Derby in a ballpark with no Green Monsters, no mascot sliding boards, no majestic Rocky Mountain peaks for those 700-foot Derby homers to slam into on their way towards the ocean.
But what an event it turned out to be, as Lance Berkman broke a window across the street from the ballpark in becoming the first ever Christmas Classic Home Run Derby Champion. His 566 foot Home Run was the longest of the contest.
OK, so we admit it. Things seemed weird with a Home Run Derby in December. But maybe the commissioner had a brain storm of an idea. Because the Derby suddenly found a way to entertain everyone around the Holiday time.  And here are the four main players who helped the leagues newest showcase:
LANCE BERKMAN — He won this year MWBL Christmas Classic Home Run Derby. He just leaped out of the cast and erupted to finish the first round by crunching 9 home runs. In all, he mashed 18 home runs in 45 volcanic hacks. And even if he wasn’t the MWBL Home Run king during the season, he anointed himself the first King of the Derby. He’s bopped 113 home runs the last three years in the MWBL, no small feat in its own.
JIM THOME — Somehow, Thome didn’t win this Derby. He just did the next best thing, finishing second to a great hitter. He was this year’s official Semi Round Home Run leader. Mashing eight in the Semi’s to move on against Berkman in the finals.  He tied Berkman slashing 14 homers in his first 34 swings — and hit them to every Island of Hawaii except Maui. Six to left field, six to right field and two to center field. So what if he lost in the finals by one stinking homer? This may have been the night Jim Thome proved to the MWBL he really is a great active power hitter.
 • SAMMY SOSA — The record books will show he was in the Semi’s and finished with eleven home runs, but Sammy’s stroke was just not there tonight. We’re still not sure how Berkman & Thome (18 & 17 homers) hit more home runs in the first two rounds than Sosa hit in three rounds (11). And so what if it seemed like half of them landed in the first row? In the end, Sammy Sosa found a way to use his moment in the Derby sun to remind us all he’s one of the most underappreciated bat artists alive.
BRIAN GILES — Giles went out of his way to make his name stand out the night before Christmas — by blasting 10 Home Runs in his first 20 swings, but it wasn’t enough to get out of the Semi’s for Giles.   He had a good run, and at one point belted four in a row, but he was a little slow with the bat speed this time around.
Should anyone besides us be interested in keeping track of this sort of thing, Alex Rodriguez was the 1st man in Derby history to go 0-for-a Derby. But he almost had company as Garrett Anderson only hit one.  ” I had a pulled muscle in my rib cage, but I am not making excuses.  If I was healthy it might have been a different showing, but again no excuses and hats off to Thome and Berkman”. Rodriguez said in a interview before the final round.
Berkman’s 6th shot in the first round landed one section short of leaving the ballpark itself, and that got the crowd into it. Homer No. 7 slammed off the base of the apartment building across the street as well, a few inches above a row of bushes, and was estimated at 477 feet. Homer No. 9 carried 462 feet and landed in the street in front of the apartments, descending deep over the bleachers in right-center.  Lance’s 3rd Homer in the finals was a 566-foot monster, three-quarters of the way up a building across the street from the Hawaii ball park. It shattered the window out as the ball disappeared inside, leaving the lady leaving who lives in the small apartment feeling the sticky night of Hawaii in December as fresh air entered her apartment for the rest of the night.
By then, people had stopped oohing and aahing, and were just on their feet saluting. And Berkman earned it.  “That was just ridiculous,” Chuckled Virginia first baseman Todd Helton who stayed to watch every blast. “He wasn’t just out there trying to dink them over the fence; he was out there pulling the ball – driving it deep into the atmosphere.  That was some kind of show.”
By the time Berkman had finished putting a 14 on the board, Thome was almost laughing himself, knowing he needed to merely put up quite a few in the final round of the Derby to win.  “That wasn’t a fun thought,” Thome admitted. “But I figured hey, that’s what it’s about. If I win, I set the record. And if I don’t, hey, what the hell. Just go out, swing from my shoe tops and see how far I can hit them and how many I can hit.”  Thome hit three in the final round, and wasn’t disappointed with his performance.   “You win some, and maybe after Berkman’s bats I will lose some”. He said in a interview before Berkman batted.
Knowing the number he needed to win it, Berkman headed to the dish for his hacks at the championship.   With only five outs to go, Berkman still trailed, 3-1 in the final round, but then he threw a lightning bolt into the evening by homering three times in his next 5 swings, including the Ruthian home run that traveled 566 feet and left the old lady without a window for the evening.   “Berkman said, `Uh-oh, I’ll probably have to pay for that.   I felt like running, like when you’re a kid and you break the neighbor’s window playing ball. But I figured since it was on national T.V. she probably knew who did it, or had a great chance of finding out who did. I am glad I stuck around and hit the last Home run to win it. Would have been funny if I would have ran and Thome would have won it on a disqualification or something.”
Thome, by then, was about ready to go home himself. “I was tired, man,” he said. “That’s a lot of swings. I’m afraid tomorrow to see how my shoulders are going to feel. I don’t think I ever took that many hacks in my life.  But hats off to Lance, he’s a Basher”.
Berkman didn’t even need his final three outs to win the contest. “I thought four in the final round was kind of easy for him,” Helton laughed.  “He’s got power that just comes natural, and he’s going to be a dangerous hitter in the MWBL for years to come”.
But the night was not that easy for Berkman. He started slowly. With just four home runs in his first ten swings, and didn’t think he was going to make it out of the first round. But then he ripped off four home runs in his next five swings, meaning he was headed at least to the Semi’s.   “I wasn’t sure I had it going on,” Berkman said. “but after I hit No. nine with only seven outs, I was sure feeling good up there.”   But there would be no number ten in the first round. His final attempt was a curling laser beam down the right-field line. But it had too much topspin, plunked off the base of the wall and Berkman ended the first round, with nine bombs, in 19 swings.
No Mac. No Junior. But no disgrace, either. “You know what?” Berkman said. “It’s for the fans, and the fans loved it. They just want to see how many we can hit and how far we can hit them. So that’s what we try and give them.”

Complete Details of the 1st Annual Christmas Classic Home Run Derby

How the Christmas Classic Home Run Derby is Conducted

2020 HALL OF FAME
BALLOT DUE
MONDAY 11/25/2019
AT 8:00 AM - ET!

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