At 6-2 and 240 pounds, it’s hard to miss Steve McQuail. Yet after five swings of the Frontier League’s All-Star Home Run Derby Tuesday night, the slugger from the Schaumburg Boomers wanted to find a place to hide at Consol Energy Park.
McQuail didn’t have a home run and was halfway to what would have been an embarrassing zero in the first round.
“My approach in the first round, after five straight outs, was not to embarrass myself,” McQuail said. “It’s really hard not to feel the pressure in one of these because everyone is looking at you.”
McQuail managed to regroup, wait a little longer on the tosses from his pitcher – Schaumburg catcher Michael Valadez – and give everybody something worth watching.
McQuail rallied to win the Home Run Derby, edging Traverse City first baseman Chase Burch, 5-3, in the finals.
“This feels great. I had been thinking about winning this for a week,” McQuaiI said. “I really wanted to win it.”
For his efforts, McQuail won a trophy bat and $500.
Burch had dominated the competition through the first two rounds, hitting 12 home runs in the first round, the majority clearing all three tiers of outfield signage and landing in the parking lot. Burch’s first-round total was more than any other player hit in the first two rounds combined.
The performance by Burch, who is second in the league with 42 RBI, impressed McQuail but didn’t shake his confidence.
“When I saw him do that in the first round, I thought I’m going to have to put up a big number in the final,” said McQuail, who is second in the league with 11 home runs. “People don’t realize it, but when you get to the later rounds, it becomes hard to hit home runs. Your arms get tired and heavy.”
McQuail, Burch, Normal shortstop Pat McKenna and Greys first baseman Balbino Fuenmayor advanced to the second round. McQuail rallied and finished with seven homers in the first round.
Washington second baseman C.J. Beatty was one of the eight competitors, and like McQuail, he was just happy to hit a home run in the first round. Beatty hit four homers, which was one shy of advancing to the second round.
“This is the second time I’ve been in one of these things,” said Beatty, who leads the Wild Things with 10 home runs. “The first time was in the Coastal Plain College Summer League. I was leading the league in home runs at the time. I hit the most home runs in the batting practice, but in the contest I didn’t hit any home runs. That’s not a good feeling. That’s why I’m smiling today.”
Beatty , a switch-hitter who batted left-handed and hit pitches from Wild Things coach Bob Bozzuto, had four outs before his first homer, a shot over the right-field wall. Beatty said his goal was to hit six home runs.
“I might have 10 home runs, but I’m a little guy,” said Beatty (5-10, 205). “I used the pitcher’s velocity to fuel those home runs. When I try to hit home runs in batting practice, I hit only one or two. Hitting four was a big number for me. I haven’t had that kind of adrenaline rush in a long time.”
Big home runs totals are nothing new to McQuail, who already had a derby title to his credit. During his days at Canisius University, McQuail won a home run contest in the Valley Summer League in Virginia.
“I won that won with two homers,” he said with a laugh.
McQuail’s only defeat in a home-run hitting contest also came during a summer league when he lost, 16-10, to Coastal Carolina’s Daniel Bowman, who is playing these days with the Lake Erie Crushers and is on the East Division all-star team. Bowman didn’t compete Tuesday night.
“I knew I had to bear down after that start in the first round,” McQuail said. “I was tired at the end but it was worth it.”