With six home runs, Nolan Inouye, a student at Granite Ridge Intermediate, won the Major League Baseball Junior Home Run Derby held at Clovis High on May 21. He, along with runners up A.J. Hodgerney and Koby Kropf, will advance to the regional competition, to be held in Los Angeles on June 26.
The winners of the regional competitions will participate in the national final in San Diego the week of July 9 as part of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Week. The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is scheduled for July 12 at San Diego’s Petco Park.
The tournament was hosted by Kevin Christensen of Premier Realty. Christensen said he became interested in bringing the competition to Clovis after learning about it via a television advertisement.
He and some friends collaborated to bring the local tournament, which was free to all participants ages 14 and under, to Clovis. Players competed in two divisions: 12U and 14U. Inouye, Hodgerney and Kropf all competed in the 14U division.
Next year, Christensen said, he’d like to involve local baseball and softball leagues to bring in more participants. The father and former athlete said he wanted to bring the baseball competition to Clovis because Clovis athletes have a reputation for excelling in sports.
“We have a good [baseball] program here,” he said, “so I thought it would be pretty neat to send a kid from our area to the All-Star Game.
“I’ve coached baseball for the last four to five years with my son,” he added, “but this year he didn’t play. I just wanted to participate in the community, do something for the kids. It was a good time. It was fun.”
This is the first year of the nationwide competition, a new program under the Play Ball initiative. Play Ball, a collaboration between Major League Baseball and U.S.A. Baseball, provides educational resources and support programs for parents, coaches, players and others involved in youth baseball and softball.