Reflections on HR Derby
By Matt Dacey
University of Richmond Third Baseman
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
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.
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
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