Clovis High slugger Jacob Gatewood wins junior Home Run Derby

The Fresno BeeJuly 15, 2013 

Jacob Gatewood rubbed elbows with the stars, got some face time on ESPN and outhomered some of baseball's best sluggers on a dream night for one of the Fresno area's most promising high school players.

The Clovis High senior-to-be and potential top pick in next year's amateur draft slugged 13 home runs to win the junior portion of Major League Baseball's Home Run Derby on Monday at New York's Citi Field. Gatewood finished with more homers than five of the eight Derby participants, including major league home run leader Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles.

"They treat you like big leaguers. I felt like I was a part of the American League All-Star team," Gatewood said by telephone from New York. "All the guys were congratulating me. It couldn't have been any better. It was the best experience of my life."

Using an aluminum bat, Gatewood blasted three of his homers into the third deck during a two-round performance that took place while ESPN was on commercial breaks. Fellow prep standout Kel Johnson of Palmetto, Ga., hit 11 homers.

Before walking onto the field around 5 p.m. Eastern time, Gatewood got some advice from his father, Henry, a first-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1982 who got as high as Double-A in a seven-year professional career.

"He told me you've already won just by being here," Gatewood said. "Then I stepped on the field and they said my name and I look around and there's 50,000 people screaming.

"My goal was to hit one home run so I wouldn't be embarrassed. But after the first one, I settled down and used what my dad said. It really helped me."

Only champion Yoenis Cespedes of Oakland (31), runner-up Bryce Harper of Washington (28) and Colorado's Michael Cuddyer (15 in two rounds) finished with more homers than Gatewood.

When he was done sending balls over the fence, Gatewood received handshakes, chest-bumps and hugs from past Derby winners Robinson Cano and Prince Fielder, as well as All-Stars such as Mike Trout, Justin Verlander and Adam Jones.

"They are the best players in baseball right now," Gatewood said. "For them to be excited for me, a 17-year-old kid from a small town in California, was awesome. All the guys were great."

Gatewood got the opportunity to talk one-on-one with several All-Stars, including Detroit's Torii Hunter.

"He told me to always stay humble and treat people as you want to be treated," Gatewood said. "And he told me whatever you do, keep swinging it."

ESPN eventually showed one of Gatewood's homers before going to a commercial break.

His performance set social media abuzz, with ESPN's Jayson Stark tweeting "How much money did Jacob Gatewood make himself just now. HS junior from Fresno just mashed 9 bombs while you were watching commercials;" and The Denver Post's Troy Renck tweeting "Jacob Gatewood isn't just some kid. Could be No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft."

Gatewood and Johnson got into Monday's contest by placing in the top two of a six-player high school home run derby before the Futures Game at Citi Field on Sunday, with Gatewood hitting nine and Johnson 11.

A shortstop, pitcher and outfielder, Gatewood hit .320 with four homers and 31 runs while also going 5-1 with a 2.02 ERA for a 24-9 Cougars team that finished 27th-ranked in the state.

He is committed to USC but recently was projected by Sports Illustrated as the No. 1 overall selection in the 2014 draft.

 

Major league players react to a Jacob Gatewood home run (Vine)

Jacob Gatewood is congratulated by major league players (Vine)

The reporter can be reached at nickg@fresnobee.com, (559) 441-6103 or @NickG_FB on Twitter.

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