There were no nerves, Daniel Vogelbach said, even after watching Bryce Brentz step to the plate right before him and smack 16 home runs in the first round of Monday’s Triple-A Home Run Derby at Cheney Stadium.
“This is all about fun, enjoying yourself, and whatever happens, happens,” Vogelbach said. “I wasn’t nervous. I wish Bryce would have kept hitting. That was pretty impressive. He went on a run there. That was fun to watch.”
Vogelbach merely continued the show, even though the championship belt went to Brentz in the end.
Vogelbach, the Tacoma Rainiers first baseman and one of six participants in Monday’s event, followed Brentz’s first-round power display with a dinger-fest of his own, pummeling the light tower in right-center field and parking 13 baseballs over the fence in his allotted four minutes at the plate. The crowd responded with a standing ovation.
That was more than enough to advance to the semifinals, where Vogelbach needed only two minutes to pepper six more taters and assure himself a spot in the finals against Brentz, an outfielder for the Pawtucket Red Sox of the International League.
But there was no topping Brentz on this night. His final swings were his best, as he totaled a whopping 18 homers in a final round that looked a lot like his first. A right-handed hitter with 18 home runs so far this season, Brentz ripped homer after homer over the fence in left field — and, on several occasions, over the roof of the “R-Yard” party deck beyond the left field fence.
“It was tiring, it was taxing, going out there for four minutes,” said Brentz, whose pitcher was none other than Tony DeFrancesco, the Fresno Grizzlies manager who is also managing the Pacific Coast League team in Wednesday’s All-Star game. “I’ve got to thank Tony. He kept feeding me middle-in with great pace ... and I wanted to make sure to stay on top of everything.”
Vogelbach, a lefty, couldn’t match Brentz’s furious tater pace, finishing in second place after knocking only seven balls out of the park in his four-minute final round.
But he did what he came to do: entertain the fans who packed Cheney Stadium on Monday night.
A two-time Triple-A All-Star, Vogelbach gave most of the credit for his stellar long-ball performance to his pitcher, Alexander Capriata, the Rainiers bullpen catcher.
Capriata, a member of the Seattle Mariners organization since 2011, throws batting practice every day, and “does a lot of work that goes unseen,” Vogelbach said.
“I just told him to throw it over the middle, and for him to have fun with it,” Vogelbach said. “He’s the bullpen catcher, and works really hard, and I asked him if he wanted to throw. He’s eating it up. This is more for him than it is for me.”
Capriata said his strategy was simple: “I try, every time, to throw a fastball down the middle.”
Brentz and Vogelbach were joined in the semifinals by Charlotte Knights first baseman Danny Hayes and Columbus Clippers infielder Richie Shaffer.
Nashville’s Renato Nunez, who leads all of the Minor Leagues with 24 home runs so far this season, hit only five homers in the first round and did not advance.