Munoz steals show at Ripken HR Derby

The Baltimore Sun

While the first day of round-robin play at the Cal Ripken 12-and-under World Series had its share of highlights yesterday, the buzz around the Ripken Youth Baseball Academy and Cal Sr.'s Yard was the performance in the Home Run Derby the night before by Carlos Munoz of Mexico.

Munoz, a 12-year old left-handed hitter whose team will play against the Dominican Republic today at noon, put on a show, hitting 18 homers before making 10 outs.

Munoz became the first player in any competition the past two years to hit the Courtyard by Marriott hotel behind the right-field fence - called the warehouse - at Cal Sr.'s Yard, a mini-replica of Camden Yards. It's 205 feet from home plate to the right-field wall and 305 feet to the hotel, and Munoz hit the building four times.

"It was unbelievable, and it brought everybody together," said Ripken Baseball staff member Rob Weinhold.

"The Oakland kids started it, and most of the other kids joined in with bow-down Sultan waves to the king [of the derby]. To see all the other kids celebrate and have fun with him [Munoz] was really special. It's what this series is all about."

With Bill Ripken pitching in the derby, Cal started it off by taking a few swings and hitting balls over the left-field fence and down onto the adjacent fields and out of sight, to the crowd's delight.

"Then, Billy challenged Cal to go to right and hit the warehouse," said Robert Faherty, a Babe Ruth League vice president and commissioner. "Cal hit it a couple times and the fans cheered. Then, [Munoz] got locked in and shocked the crowd by hitting it four times. It was something else. Heck, I remember the first year we had the Home Run Derby here, and only one kid hit a homer."

Munoz was not around the field yesterday, but several of his teammates and their parents were, and they beamed about him.

Faherty said the Babe Ruth League which the Ripken division plays under, is excited about the new 70-foot base paths and 50-foot pitching distances in the major division, proposed by Cal Ripken Jr.

"We expect many more organizations to go 70-foot next year," Faherty said. "It's a matter of finding the fields.

Notes -- The new dimensions fit the players well in yesterday's four games, as four players had three hits each in yesterday's first game, in which Olympia, Wash., beat Oakland, Calif., 11-8. Jake Biscay and Ande Grantham had three hits for the winners, while Kailen Robinson and David Sumisaki had three each for Oakland. ... Japan makes its Ripken debut at 1:30 this afternoon against

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