SALT LAKE CITY — If chicks do indeed dig the long ball, as the classic '90s Nike commercial — yep, the one featuring Atlanta's Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine — so wonderfully states, then Spring Mobile Ballpark was the place to be on Monday night.
Besides the real fireworks, which lit up the sky around 9:45 p.m., the seven participants in the 2011 Home Run Derby put on a show of their own, launching home runs to every part of the field for two solid hours.
And interspersed among the Triple-A sluggers, which included Salt Lake's own Jeff Baisley, two of Utah's finest high school players were on full display. Bonneville's Sam Hall and Spanish Fork's Kayden Porter had each qualified for a spot in the derby after finishing 1-2 in a recent high school home run contest.
Hall struggled, failing to connect on a home run until he had nine of his 10 allotted outs in the first round.
He stole the show.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound senior-to-be from Spanish Fork High led off the derby with four home runs in the first round. His fourth homer was a moon shot that flew over the 474-foot sign on the snack shack that sits on the concourse beyond the left-field wall. Word is, the ball is still rolling down Main Street somewhere between 1300 South and Harrison Avenue.
The four home runs were enough to propel Porter into the second round.
"I was really nervous because I didn't really know what to expect," Porter said. "Coming out with four home runs, I didn't know if that would get it done with these Triple-A guys. But I'm glad I got the chance to get in."
As it turns out, Porter was just warming up. He smacked nine homers in the second round to reach the final pairing, where he would face Stefan Gartrell of the Gwinnett Braves. With two outs to go in round two, Iowa's Bryan LaHair, who leads the PCL with 24 home runs, ran out and replaced the high-schooler's metal bat with a traditional wooden bat, much to the delight of the crowd.
Porter smoked a line drive that fell a few feet shy of the warning track on the first pitch, then hit a grounder for his tenth and final out.
"I play in wood bat leagues during the summer and fall, so I'm used to hitting with them," Porter said. "I was hoping that one of the guys would throw me a wood bat again [in the final round] because I didn't bring my own wood bats with me. That didn't happen, though, so maybe next time."
Gartrell led off the final round with seven homers to put the pressure on Porter.
Porter fell short of the title with only five final-round homers, though he did manage to send the crowd into a final frenzy. His first home run in the final round sailed over the batter's eye in center, a 40-foot high tarp looming beyond the 420-foot sign on the wall.
It was, by far, the longest home run of the night.
"That was impressive," Gartrell said. "I've heard stories about stuff he's done and I can see it. He's got a lot of pop and he's going to be a great college player and probably a great professional player. I just met the kid and I'm already proud of him."
Though he didn't win, Porter said the experience is one he'll never forget.
"That was by far the loudest baseball experience I've had in my entire life," Porter said. "I don't know how many people were here tonight, but in my head it felt like there were a million people in the crowd screaming for me the entire time. It was really exciting."
For the record, there were 9,183 fans in attendance, and they got to see exactly what they wanted.
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