Blue Devils' grand slam
By By Matthew Nascone
There were seven amateur contestants and one professional player present at the inaugural Atmore Home Run Derby Saturday at Tom Byrne Park.
Escambia County High School head baseball coach Jonathan Rasberry put together the derby as a way to gain community support for the Blue Devils' baseball program.
"I really think overall it was a good step in the right direction for our program and Atmore," Rasberry said.
Rasberry brought Sean Gamble, his former teammate at Auburn University and current player on the Pensacola Pelicans of the American Association, out to hit in an exhibition round of the derby. Gamble showed why he plays professionally, knocking nearly 10 bombs into deep right field to the amazement of the crowd.
"I think the people who showed up enjoyed themselves, especially when Sean got up to the plate," Rasberry said.
Rasberry said it was disappointing to not see a lot of people in the stands.
"It is really disappointing for these guys who are participating to not see the people in the stands," he said. "But I was pleased with how our participants represented our school. And I would like to thank the Northview guys for participating in the event."
Escambia County's own Eric Coley won the derby on a home run in the finals against Northview's T.J. Hadley.
The other participants included Trent Freeman and Jacob Farish from Northview and Michael Thomas, Cody Vickrey and Justin Rolin from the host Blue Devils.
Thomas was the only player to hit any home runs in the first round and he hit two, giving him six points heading into the second round.
The scoring was comprised of three points for a home run, two points for hitting the fence in the air or bouncing over the fence and one point for a one-hopper to the fence.
Hadley compiled three points in the second round. Rolin also had three points and Coley had two points.
The third round saw Coley and Rolin in a three-swing tiebreaker for the third spot in the finals with Thomas and Hadley.
Coley won the swing off and hit the only home run of the finals for the win. Hadley had one ball hit the fence in the air and one get there on one hop and Thomas had a ball that bounced over the fence.
"I think this derby has really energized our players," Rasberry said. "We had a great day of practice Monday and they were all using the bat Sean used to hit with in the derby for their cuts in batting practice. They were really fired up and I hope we can take that into the season."
Rasberry said he would like to send a special thank you.
"I want to thank all the people who came and supported us Saturday," he said. "And I would like to thank all those who helped me put the event together and to Lou Vickery for announcing the event for us. He did a fantastic job on very short notice."
Sponsors for the event and for the season include, Huskey Printing Company, Dean's Grill, Alfa Insurance, David's Paint and Body, Barnett Associates, First National Bank &Trust, David's Catfish House, United Bank, Buster's Restaurant, Murray Johnson Insurance, Cheryl and Mike West, Buck and Mary Bess Powell, Masland Carpets &Rugs, Vulcan Materials, Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union, "Atmore News" and The Atmore Advance.