Ok, Big Sluggers, Get Ready For Home Run Derby

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Mother Nature seemingly always unleashes a curve at those sluggers hoping to punch a bundle of round-trip tickets in the annual home run derby.

Last year, the fourth annual slugfest was postponed due to inclement weather, which included lightning, wind and rain.

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Power hitting will be on display when the town parks and recreation department and Mazatzal Casino host the annual home run derby July 18 at Rumsey Park.

Mary McMullen, then the town parks and recreation coordinator, went so far as to move the rescheduled derby up to 10 a.m., from 6 p.m., in an attempt to avoid the afternoon monsoon rains.

Two years ago, the derby was delayed for about half an hour, due to swirling winds.

In 2005, when the tournament was scheduled for July 16, rain forced postponement until the following month.

This year, town recreation supervisor Patrick Walker has his fingers crossed hoping monsoon winds and rain are not again a factor.

"(The weather) is always a concern," he said.

The 2008 event is scheduled for 6 p.m., July 18 on the Rumsey 2 field. Registration opened June 2 and will continue until derby day. On-site registration is available, Walker said.

The registration fee is $45 per team and entrants must be at least 21 years of age.

All players will receive a T-shirt and trophies will be awarded.

Although the weather has played tricks on the derby, the annual slugfest has managed to build a reputation for its charitable cause, which includes donating proceeds to local nonprofit organizations.

Some of those who have received funds from derby proceeds include the Gracie Haught Classic Softball Tournament, Payson Humane Society, Habitat for Humanity, PHS baseball, Big Brothers Big Sisters and DARE.

When registering for the circuit skirmish, each three-person team must designate a nonprofit organization to be the recipient of its prize money, which is donated by the Mazatzal Casino.

The casino donates $500 to the favorite charity of the winning teams, $300 for runnersup and $100 for the bronze medalist.

The casino will also award bats to the top male and female hitters in the derby.

Past derby team champions include some of the Rim Country's finest softball players including Molly Hunt, Chad Martin, Willie Dietz, Nina Ray, Melody Deaton, Tammy Felton and Mike Barr.

In 2007, Ray was named the best female home run hitter after swatting 13 home runs.

Barr punched 20 round-trip tickets and won the best male hitter award.

The first year the derby was held, 2004, Scott Nossek hit 24 of 45 pitches out of the park to win the event. Hunt won among the women with 20 home runs.

This year's derby will feature both men's and women's divisions. For the women, the home run fence will be moved in to 200 feet from home plate.

For the men, a home run is one hit over the regulation Rumsey II fence about 285 feet from home plate and 10 feet high.

Also, the women will hit an 11-inch softball, commonly used in most recreation leagues.

The men will hit a 12-inch softball.

Hitters will supply their own pitchers. Pitches must be underhand, with an arch of six to 12 feet above the ground.

The good news for those power hitters who own state-of-the-art, high-dollar bats outlawed in most ASA and USSSA play, is the widow-makers will be permitted in the derby.

Also, commonly used, restricted-flight softballs will be stored away in ball bags. Rather, high-flyin' .47 core and .50 core balls, illegal in most tournaments, will be used.

With double-walled titanium bats and rock-rigid spheres in use, more and longer home runs should be sailing out of Rumsey Park.

For more information about the derby, call Walker at 474-5242, ext. 7.

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