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Hey, Jude, Good Job

Montgomery Ridge seventh-grader a hit with derby champion Baker
Smoky Mountain Classic Home Run Derby champion Bryson Baker of Smash It Sports poses with a group of young fans after Thursday’s competition. The Smoky Mountain Classic continues through Sunday, with the championship game scheduled for Sunday at Sandy Springs at 11 a.m. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Bryson Baker

Bryson Baker

Bryson Baker wasn’t quite sure what to say.

Jude Ellison caught the Smash It Sports slugger totally by surprise at the conclusion of the Smoky Mountain Classic Home Run Derby Thursday night at Sandy Springs Park.

As a consequence, Ellison, a Montgomery Ridge seventh-grader, received a memento he’s likely to always treasure, Baker a lifelong fan.

Baker repeated as champion of the classic’s kickoff home-run hitting contest, surviving a mighty duel with Resmondo strongman Lee Powers in the championship round. Powers went deep on eight of 10 swings in the finals to apply the pressure, Baker following with nine bombs to go home with the trophy.

“I knew what I had to do,” Baker said. “A lot of the bigger guys try to power the ball. I just try to stay smooth and create some spin so the ball will carry.”

Resmondo's Lee Powers readies to strike during Thursday's home run derby.

Resmondo’s Lee Powers readies to strike on Thursday.

After the show, a group of young fans, many of them Parks & Recreation “Ball Shaggers,” whose job over the three days of the classic is to retrieve home run balls from nearby Pistol Creek, swarmed Baker for autographs. The last to step forward was Ellison, who presented Baker with the ball that had won the competition.

Baker paused for a moment, signed the ball and returned it to Ellison.

“I thought he should have it,” Baker said.

Asked why he thought it important to retrieve the ball and get it to Baker, Ellison said: “I thought it was a pretty cool achievement.”

Ryan Wood won the local derby earlier in the afternoon with Justin Teffeteller runner up, earning both a spot in the night’s showcase event. In front of one of the best crowds for the derby in some time, it proved to be really something.

Baker lifts another blast into Pistol Creek.

Baker lifts another blast into Pistol Creek.

Baker and Powers survived a host of A-list challengers to emerge the final two combatants, none more so than Andy Purcell, the ace in the pitching circle for Smoky Mountain Classic defending champion Resmondo. Purcell, a Hall of Fame pitcher, put on a wild display of 16 home runs in a row, including a 10-for-10 perfecto in the opening round.

Games continue through Sunday at Sandy Springs, Everett and Springbrook parks and the fields at DENSO Manufacturing.

The championship game is scheduled for Sunday at Sandy Springs at 11 a.m.

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