Blame it on the rain delay? How about jet lag?
Don’t expect that type of response from Josh Naylor, the big first baseman from Mississauga, Ont., who was probably just thrilled to be participating in Monday night’s Junior Home Run Derby at Target Field in Minnesota.
Despite a 54-minute rain delay at Target Field, Naylor managed to hit a combined four home runs in a two-round battle against Luken Baker, a catcher/right-handed pitcher from Oak Ridge High School in Conroe, Tex.
@JoshNaylor44 knock em dead buddy!!!— Tony Hrynkiw⚾ (@Hrynkiw_) July 15, 2014
Naylor's first homer sailed well past the 23-foot wall in right-centre field to the upper deck, but despite the strong start Baker prevailed 7-4.
"I just got my head on that baseball and my barrel got through the zone," said the six-foot-one, 225-pound Naylor of the first long ball. "I felt really good on that one."
"It was a little nerve-racking at first but I got through it after my first home run. It was just amazing hitting in front of everyone, all the big leaguers, all the fans."
17 year old Josh Naylor from Ontario just ripped a HR into the upper deck in the Jr Home Run Derby. pic.twitter.com/c32VL1X2Xz— Paul Hollingsworth (@PaulHReporter1) July 15, 2014
In Monday’s competition, Naylor and Baker got 10 outs or four mintues (whichever came first) in Round 1 and 10 swings on a maximum 15 pitches in Round 2. Baker led 6-3 after the first round and they each went deep in Round 2.
Naylor and Baker won the preliminary portion on Sunday, each hitting six home runs using metal bats. Baker then defeated his 17-year-old opponent 2-0 in a three-swing tiebreaker.
Naylor, who attends St. Joan of Arc Catholic Secondary School, had a chance to rub shoulders with fellow Home Run Derby competitors Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays, Colorado teammates Justin Morneau (pictured below) and Troy Tulowitzki and Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, among others.
Naylor and Baker went to bat during the television commercial breaks of MLB's home run derby, keeping the sold-out crowd entertained. It also gave Naylor a chance to solicit advice from the major league players on the field, including fellow Canadian Justin Morneau, a first baseman with the Colorado Rockies.
Morneau, from New Westminster, B.C., won MLB's home run derby in 2008.
"We just discussed how I should go about taking swings, how patient I should be," said Naylor. "I asked him how the derby went in 2008 and what his mentality was when he went in it.
"I asked him tonight how many he was going to hit and he said 'I'm just going to start with one and work my way up."'
Morneau, who used to play for the Twins, received a standing ovation from the Minnesota crowd when he was introduced before the competition. He hit two home runs in the first round of the National League bracket and was eliminated by eventual finalist Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds in a tie-breaker round.
On Friday, Naylor returned from Cuba with Canada’s junior national team after hitting .455 in eight games against the Cuban under-18 national squad.
He’s in his third year with the national program after joining as a 15-year-old in 2012 at the IBAF under-18 World Cup in Seoul, South Korea, where Naylor helped Canada win a silver medal.
At 15, Naylor also competed in the 2012 International Power Showcase High School Home Run Derby.
On Monday, Naylor was just appreciative of the opportunity to compete.
"You're never going to get this experience again," said Naylor. "Hopefully it comes again, but this is rare for some people. I'm blessed to be in this situation right now, to be here and to be experiencing everything I am. I got to hang out with major leaguers today and I talked to a few of them, took pictures with a lot of them. I even saw them hit. You don't get to do that every day.
"Just be thankful for every opportunity."