By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
Garrett Boulware was watching a movie with his little brother, Ben, in their Anderson, S.C. home when Ben received a text message from Stacy Stephens, a woman who ran the Under Armour All-American Football game he played in back in January.
Ms. Stephens is also one of the people in charge of the 2013 TD Ameritrade College Home Run Derby, and she wanted to know if Garrett might be interested in participating.
“I thought he was joking,” Garrett said when Ben told him about the text. “So he showed me the text message. So I got her number and she called me an hour later and asked me if I wanted to do this. I told her, ‘I will definitely do it.’
“She asked, ‘You are not doing anything?’ I was like, ‘I’m sitting here doing nothing so please let’s do this.’”
What Clemson catcher Garrett Boulware will do is participate in the fourth-annual College Home Run Derby, an event that features college baseball’s top sluggers competing under the lights at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., on July 3. The Home Run Derby will air nationally on ESPN at 8 p.m. on July 4.
This year’s roster includes power hitters selected from a pool of eligible players, who have ranked among the nation’s home run leaders during the 2013 college baseball season.
“It’s definitely going to be a lot of fun, especially playing with some of the guys out there. I mean they are some of the best power hitters in the country,” Boulware said. “For me to be even considered is just an honor.”
But don’t let Boulware fool you. He deserves to be there, especially after he caught just about every game of the Tigers’ 40-22 season this past year.
The sophomore led Clemson with eight home runs and 45 RBIs on his way to winning the Mitchell Award, given annually to the Tigers’ Most Valuable Player. Boulware also earned national attention by being named a Gregg Olson Award semi-finalist and to the Johnny Bench Award Watch List.
Boulware will be the second Tiger to participate in the home run derby, joining Richie Shaffer, who participated in the event in 2011.
“The fact I’m going to be the second player after Richie Shaffer is awesome,” he said. “Everything about this is pretty much an honor and is kind of surprising to me. It’s definitely going to be a lot of fun competing with those guys and having fun.
“I’m sure it will be a good time.”
Boulware was available because he and the coaches thought it might be a good idea for him to take the summer off after catching every game in the last six weeks of the season. Most college players are playing in the Cape Cod League this time of the year.
“I was taking a couple of weeks off (from hitting) and then I got the invite a couple of weeks ago and since then I have been swinging every day,” he said. “It is supposed to be a fun event, but at the same time I don’t want to embarrass myself out there.
“I’m trying to get ready. I’m hitting every day. It is a little different kind of swing, but you kind of have to (work on it) in order to kind of get some projection so the ball will actually carry out since it is such a big field.”
This is the second time Boulware has participated in a home run derby, but this one might be a little bit different. The last one he was in was at his high school, T.L. Hanna, in Anderson.
“My high school field is not quite like this,” he said smiling. “I think it was 310 and 380 (center). It was a very average high school field. It is definitely nothing to this size. It was high school, so it was not very tough, but this one is going to be bigger and have a lot more people and a little better competition so it is going to be a little more of a challenge.”
Boulware says everyone who has hit in TD Ameritrade Park talks about how big the ball park is and how hard it is to hit home runs in that stadium to begin with. The Ball-Bat Coefficient of Restitution bats don’t make that any easier. But the Clemson catcher isn’t so sure if that’s the bat they have to use so he is bringing one of the old bats, too, just in case.
“Everyone talks about how big the field is and even how much bigger it plays,” he said. “It’s not like a big field and the ball carries out of it. The ball does not carry well there, either. So it is going to be tough, but at the end of the day, if you lose out there, it doesn’t matter. We are just out there having a good time and it’s awesome to be invited.”