The 2017 Home Run Derby will be held tonight. It is a magical evening full of dingers and not much else which has only been improved by the addition of head-to-head matchups and a countdown clock. But there is one other way to improve it and no, Logan Morrison, its not by adding you. It’s by making the contestant pool up entirely of former and current Cincinnati Bearcats! OK, Giancarlo Stanton and Cody Bellinger probably move the needle a bit more, but here’s who I would put out there if you had to play for UC to get in.
The Greek God of Walks and one of the stars of “Hardball” (the book, not the movie), Youk is the most obvious choice. He hit a program record 53 home runs from 1998 to 2001 and is fourth in all-time slugging percentage at UC. In addition to that, he actually had a pretty successful MLB career, playing 10 seasons, the majority of which came with the Boston Red Sox. In nine years with the Sox he smashed 133 home runs and made the All Star team three times.
Singer was a teammate of Youkillis and actually finished his career with more RBI (239) than Youk, but came up just shy in career home runs, launching 52 long balls during the same time period. Singer did not go on to have the same success in the bigs as Youkilis, however, as he played rookie ball for the Yankees but never got any further, spending a few years in Independent Ball before hanging up the spikes.
If he had played as long as Youkilis, there is no doubt Spina would be the home run king at UC. From 2008 to 2009 he blasted 44 balls over the wall and finished as the all-time leader in slugging percentage for the Bearcats (.703). Spina was selected in the 11th round of the 2009 MLB Draft by Oakland and he went on to play three seasons in the minors, but failed to get past Double-A.
Another contemporary of Youkilis and Singer, Hamblen wasn’t as powerful as either, but 38 home runs for a career isn’t too bad. After being drafted in the 13th round of the 2002 MLB draft by the Texas Rangers, he played parts of two seasons in the minors, but a .229/.329/.377 slash line in 334 plate appearances kept him from rising much.
Tewes was on the same teams as Youkilis and Singer and had the same number of home runs as Hamblen. He was also named to the UC All-Decade Team for the 2000s.
We are going a ways back here, as Abbatiello played in the mid-80s for the Bearcats. He was the all-time home run leader at UC for more than a decade as his 37 blasts were not eclipsed until the late 90s. He played rookie ball for a year in the Braves’ organization but got no further.
Although Happ isn’t even in the top 10 of career home runs at UC, he still deserves a spot here. Currently ripping dingers for the Chicago Cubs, Happ was a first-team All-American for the Bearcats and hit 14 home runs in 2015, his second season, before being drafted in the first round. He already has 12 homers at the MLB level this season, his first.
He may have just been drafted, but we still need a current(ish) player. Noda fits the bill as he led the Bearcats with nine home runs this past season, a career-high for the first baseman. He has 22 in his college career.