Going deep in Dothan

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds are known as some of the greatest home run hitters in Major League Baseball history.

The next great home run hitter just might be swinging a bat on Pitman Field at Rip Hewes Stadium in Dothan this weekend as a participant in the 10th anniversary edition of the Wiregrass Home Run Derby. The derby is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 14.

Among the high school baseball players who will be vying for the title of Wiregrass Home Run King are four from right here in Covington County.

Andalusia High School will be represented by Tyler Wilson at the event, which begins at 9:30 a.m. with a preliminary round.

Wilson, however, will not be the only player from Covington County in the competition.

Opp High School will be represented by Brock Kelley. Pleasant Home will be represented by Brent Carter. Scotty McCraney, also a student at Pleasant Home School, is entered in the contest as a Babe Ruth representative from Covington County.

The annual event is celebrating its 10th anniversary and will feature some very special guests.

Major League Baseball players attending the 2004 Wiregrass Home Run Derby include three members of the World Series Champion Florida Marlins.

Marlins scheduled to attend the event this year include Mike Mordecai, World Series winning pitcher Brad Penny (Game 1 and Game 5 winner against the New York Yankees) and National League Rookie of the Year Dontrelle Willis.

Also scheduled to appear are Milwaukee Brewer Wes Helms and Toronto Blue Jay Gabe Gross. Former Atlanta Braves player and current coach Glenn Hubbard will also be on hand.

The professional baseball players will sign autographs from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. before performing a hitting exhibition followed by the 2004 Wiregrass Home Run Derby Finals at 4 p.m.

Advanced tickets to the derby cost $5 and may be purchased at C&M Sporting Goods. Tickets are $7 at the gate.

The derby begins with player registration at 9 a.m. followed by preliminary rounds at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

The second round is slated to begin at 12:15 p.m. followed by the third round at 1 p.m.

The fourth round begins at 1:30 p.m. followed by the autograph session from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

A hitting exhibition is set to begin at 4 p.m. and will be immediately followed by the finals of the home run derby.

Last year, Houston Academy's Dan Tankersley took home first-place honors in the home run derby. Ricky Pruitt of G.W. Long High School was second followed by Jason Hightower from Northview High School in Dothan.

Other previous Wiregrass Home Run Derby Champions include Kolby Kaston, Adam Tucker, Jonathan Adams, Drew Miller, David Hussey and Shawn McCorkel. Tucker and McCorkel are both two-time champions.

Larry Tubbs, director of the derby, said the event is the brainchild of Mike Mordecai and has blossomed into a major sporting event in the Wiregrass.

"Mike Mordecai came up with the idea. We just took off with it and it's big over here," Tubbs said.