July 8, 2014


Reflections on HR Derby

By Matt Dacey

University of Richmond Third Baseman


My experience in Omaha for the TD Ameritrade College HR Derby was absolutely surreal. When I first got the news from Coach [Tracy] Woodson I was speechless. At first I thought he was joking because I felt like there was no way I could’ve been selected out of all of the Division I college baseball players in the country for an event of this magnitude.


I flew out to Omaha, the mecca of college baseball, one day before the derby and met some of the other participants as well as took part in a filmed interview for ESPN. The guys from ESPN asked me a couple questions regarding the summer-league home run derby I won last summer and my transfer process coming into Richmond. After the interview, they also had me go through some actions shots in front of the cameras for my introduction for the ESPN television broadcast.


The next day was a busy one as we all traveled to the ballpark for our first batting-practice session, pregame introduction rehearsals and more pictures and interviews. Stepping onto the field at TD Ameritrade Park will be a moment I’ll never forget. Even though the 25,000 seats were empty in the early-morning hours, I could feel the presence of all the great players and teams that have ever competed on that diamond.


During batting practice I got to know the other guys more just by chatting about baseball and our lives as D-I student-athletes. Every other contestant came from a much larger school than I did, colleges like the University of Texas and Ohio State, but each and every guy was as down-to-earth as can be.


After batting practice, we had some down time back at the hotel to relax before the derby. Some of the guys planned on taking naps to get some extra rest, but I couldn’t close my eyes if I wanted to. It was only maybe 2 o’clock in the afternoon but at that point I was already running on pure adrenaline.


As night came and the sun started to set, we made our way back to the field to take one last batting-practice session to make sure our swings were as tailored as possible for the derby. As the start time of the derby and the ESPN broadcast came closer, more and more spectators filled the seats of TD Ameritrade Park. Chatter and cheers filled the stadium for the entire first round of the derby. I was due to hit seventh in the event, so by the time I walked to the batter’s box, the crowd had seen tremendous efforts put forth by the hitters before me.


Eric Gutierrez wowed everyone in attendance by hitting 15 home runs in the opening round, Tres Barrera clobbered 11 and Zach Ratcliff stood at third place with five. It was up to me to match or possibly surpass their home run totals to advance to the semifinals. I was fortunate enough to put myself in a position to succeed by hitting three home runs with the money ball left. I waited to get a pitch to hit and crushed a home run to deep right-center for two points to catapult myself to the semifinals.


In the semifinals I had to catch Tres Barrera’s total of 16 home runs to make the finals. Again, I put myself in a position to advance by needing to hit the money ball for a home run to tie Barrera. Unfortunately I mishit the money ball, ending my run at 14 total homers.


After making my last out I came off the field with a gigantic grin and thanked Coach [Matt] Tyner for doing a great job throwing to me. The other players also congratulated me for a great run in my last round. Even though I didn’t make the finals, I couldn’t be happier with my efforts and the way I competed till the very end.


Being able to step onto TD Ameritrade Park and represent Spider baseball and the University of Richmond, as a whole on national TV was an incredible honor. I was truly humbled by all the support I received from my teammates, fellow Spider student-athletes, and U of R alumni before, during and after the derby. My time in Omaha was the most fun I’ve had playing baseball in a very long time, and I won’t forget the experience and memories I made there for as long as I live.


(photos courtesy of UR Media Relations)