Home run derbies are an integral part of the All-Star Game experience at every level of baseball, but the format has been somewhat stale in recent years. The Charleston RiverDogs changed all of that by moving the South Atlantic League home run competition to the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Yorktown, earning professional baseball’s best promotion of the year award by Ballpark Digest.
“Other teams have spruced up home run derbies in recent years, but no one has had the audacity to move it from the ballpark to an aircraft carrier,” said Kevin Reichard, publisher of Ballpark Digest. “More than that, the derby became a true event, complete with high-profile sponsors and community involvement.”
The home run derby was a two-day event, with 10 competitors starting the derby on the flight deck of the Yorktown. An inflatable batting cage was set up so that the sluggers could belt balls in to Charleston Harbor where staffers on jet skis collected the baseballs.
The title sponsor of the event was Miller High Life and Windell Middlebrooks, the high-profile High Life deliveryman, was on hand.
The event started with Windell honoring veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
After the 10 competitors finished launching their homers off local high school coaches, RiverDogs co-owner and actor Bill Murray, wearing fatigues and a hat that was close to the one that he wore in “Caddyshack,” stepped up for a few cuts. Following Murray’s swings, fans who made donations to the IAVA were allowed to hit balls and meet Murray.
“It isn’t every day that one gets to watch a home run derby on the flight deck of a World War II carrier,” RiverDogs General Manager Dave Echols said. “We’re honored to receive this award, and we’re glad that Ballpark Digest liked this promotion as much as we did.”