MIAMI — One year ago this week, Matthew Mebane won the inaugural Major League Baseball Junior Home Run Derby at Petco Park in San Diego.
“It was special because you would never get to do anything like that, so it was like a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Mebane said. “Except, I get to do it again this year.”
The North Augusta native is once again one of 16 athletes from around the country who will compete for the title at Marlins Park in Miami this weekend. Mebane, now 13, won the Atlanta regional to become one of eight kids in the 14 and under age group to clinch a spot.
“That’s two different stadiums standing at home plate and get to take everything in,” Mebane said. “It’s special.”
“To me, for a 13-year-old, that’s pretty neat,” Matthew’s father Frank Mebane said.
After cruising to the title last year, Mebane expects the competition to be a little more challenging this time around.
“I expect it’s probably going to be harder because I’ll be up against the bigger kids and they’ll have better mechanics than the 12 year olds last year,” Matthew said.
The competitors aren’t the only ones who have improved though.
“I’ve gotten a lot stronger in the past year,” Matthew said. “And, I’ve grown probably five inches.”
Mebane hopes to use that new power and his experience to defend his crown, but more importantly he wants to enjoy the moment.
“It’s really just have fun and try as hard as I can,” Matthew said. “If I win that’s great, but it’s what you get to do besides the derby that’s so much fun.”
“He hits home runs and he gets on a roll,” Frank said. “I’d like to see him hit it and feel like he was on a roll and just do his best. That’s all I could really hope for. He’s got a tremendous talent and for him to do be able to do this, I’m really proud of him.”
Photos courtesy: Kabir Faiz, Account Coordinator-LEJ Sports Group (MLB Jr. Home Run Derby Headquarters) & Major League Baseball