Baseball: Bell rings a shot to win Home Run Derby

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By Mike Cote

Right before his last swing, Addison Bell stepped out of the batter’s box to collect his thoughts.

“I was just trying to focus on my swing,” Bell said. “My back foot, my follow-through.”

That extra time and that extra focus worked.

Bell, the third hitter in the order for Albuquerque Roadrunner’s All-Stars in their game with Albuquerque Zia Saturday, hit his final pitch into deep left-center for a home run, giving him the 2008 Juniors Little League All-Stars Home Run Derby title.

Bell, who just turned 15 and attends Albuquerque’s La Cueva High School, edged out Carlsbad’s Isaiah Castañeda, who hit two home runs in the final round of the Derby, held Friday night at Bomber Field.

The Home Run Derby was held as part of the Juniors state tournament opening ceremonies. Los Alamos is hosting a state Little League tournament for the first time.

In all, 15 sluggers competed for the title. Each of the nine teams playing in the tournament could select two representatives to participate.

Each player had 10 pitches to see how many home runs he could put over league officials standing about 30 feet in front of the Bomber Field fence.

Castañeda put on an impressive display in the first round, actually taking two balls out of Bomber Field to left-center, the fence of which is 355 feet from home plate. He finished the first round with three home runs.

Bell, who was among the last batters in the first round, hit some hard shots with his first six swings but was hitting line drives instead of getting anything in the air. Finally, with pitch seven, Bell drove a fly ball over the marker in straight away center.

The next pitch, Bell did the same, taking the ball over in left field. With pitch nine, Bell hit the left-center field warning track on the fly, equaling Castañeda’s mark of three.

Bell said after the competition that he didn’t hit a home run in regular season play this year, although he did hit two in Roadrunner’s district tournament and two more playing in the American Legion League earlier this year.

Steven Williams, Los Alamos’ lone entrant into the Derby, hit a home run on the first pitch of the competition, but wouldn’t get another over.

George Marquez of Raton and Austin Gregory of Carlsbad both finished the first round with two home runs, but only the top two finishers in the first round moved on to the finals.

Bell said he was ecstatic to be playing at state and to win the competition. With his win, he picked up a T-shirt and an iTunes gift card.

“This is my first time at state,” he said. “I’ve been waiting to get here for three years. I’m finally here...it’s nice. I’ve been treated well at the opening ceremony, there’s good food. It’s fun.”