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Youth players capture Southeast HR Derby titles

Youth players capture Southeast HR Derby titles


By Tom Nader

Publisher and Editor

Southeast baseball coach Lee Lovejoy is about more than just winning games.

He wants his program to be all-encompassing and part of that is to make a p

riority to create opportunities to include the youth in the district’s communities.

Lovejoy drew inspiration from some of his childhood memories and introduced the Southeast Home Run Derby two years ago.

The event features an open invitation to any youth player 14 years and younger to compete in the showcase.

“Growing up in Ravenna, we always had a home run derby like this and it was great,” Lovejoy said. “When I was hired, I was a new coach in a new community and I wanted to do something that would bridge the high-school program to the youth. I thought the derby was a perfect way to do that. It got kids involved and allowed me to meet new people within the community.”

This summer’s derby was hosted at the Southeast High School softball field and attracted more than 40 players.

“The idea is to make connections with everyone and to do it by introducing something fun for the kids,” Lovejoy said.

Set up at the school’s softball field, a pitching machine delivered two rounds of 10 pitches each to each age group.

This year’s competition featured age groups at 14U, 12U, 10U and 9U.

After the two rounds, the player with the most dingers was crowned champion and won a new game-ready bat.

The home plate for 9U and 10U are set up just behind second base, the 12U near second base and 14U closer to the pitcher’s mound.

“Of the 40 kids we had out, I think every single one of them hit at least one home run,” Lovejoy said. “Their faces were priceless. It is awesome to see. Some of these players are not hitting home runs in games yet and that is OK. I was the same way growing up. I was not a home-run hitter, but this event gives them a chance to get that feeling.”

Winners for the 2022 Home Run Derby included Mason Dillon at 9U, Caden Dillon at 10U, Colton Dillon at 12U and Cohen Richardson at 14U.

In the event’s two years, Lovejoy has had close to 100 participants total — who show up in their uniforms for that season — and families have offered strong support.

“Since we have the home plates in the infield, it allows families to actually set up their chairs to watch everything from inside the infield fences,” said Lovejoy, whose parents Earl and Crystal Lovejoy also volunteer at the event. “We announce the kids as they walk up to home plate and it is really cool to see each player support each other. They are competing, but you see them support too.”

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